How To Set the Tone for High-Value Idea Generation In Your Company
Innovation doesn’t just mean creating something “new.” To compete in this global economy, your company has to come to the marketplace with a lot more than that. Take the Fast Company “Innovation By Design” Awards as an example. Entries in this annual contest are judged on functionality, originality, beauty, sustainability, depth of user insight, cultural impact, and business impact¹. If your company or organization isn’t meeting more than a few of these benchmarks, you’re probably not truly “innovating.”
So how do you foster high-value idea generation in your company? What does it take to make your organization become an idea factory? Let’s talk about how to change the landscape of your company to become a true hub for innovation.
If you’ve been in business for awhile, you know that innovation is nothing new. There have been volumes of research on the process of innovation for quite some time. In fact, the theory of “disruptive innovation” was first introduced by the Harvard Business Review over 20 years ago. Everyone wants to shake up their industry and disrupt current business trends be the latest and greatest in their respective industries.
However, as HBR’s recent update on this theory shows, sometimes disruptive innovation gets sloppy. Being an industry innovator doesn’t necessarily warrant success for your business, if some parameters aren’t in place, or if any of these factors exist: lack of understanding, insufficient executive attention, or inadequate financial investment.²
To get high-quality ideas flowing in your company, make sure that the leaders are defining what innovative means to the organization. Where does the company want to go with its product offering? Is there a service that you could provide that someone else in your industry already is, but is missing something? Setting some clear expectations with your teams will help them generate ideas that are relevant, ultimately leading to a higher chance of success and customer adoption.
Slow and Steady
Most of us have heard the allegory saying that it’s easier to turn a speedboat than a cruise ship, meaning that it’s easier for a small company to change than a large corporation. But just because you have a large company, doesn’t high-value you can’t innovate and keep up with the smaller startups that crop up daily. Set the tone such that generating ideas and innovating has nothing to do with company size, but with what’s happening in the marketplace.
Take Coca-Cola for example. You’re probably thinking - how could a company that’s quite simply a sugary drink continue to innovate over the years? However, this solid American company has an entire arm of the company dedicated to four areas of innovation: product, marketing, sustainability, and system. Simply by dedicating resources and executive oversight, two of the factors mentioned above, Coca-Cola can compete with smaller beverage companies that continually come to the scene and fight for market share.
One of its most recent innovations - a small plastic bottle, is changing the marketplace in India. The beverage giant looked at the marketplace and discovered that a few small changes to its packaging would allow Coca-Cola to reach the rural areas of India. By slowly entering this unique landscape, the latest innovation by the company will allow it to replicate this steady growth in the rest of India, and other regions with similar challenges.
If you want to motivate your team to produce high-value ideas, make sure that the end goal is valuable and relevant. People want to be a part of something that is current, and that has the possibility of making an impact, no matter what industry they’re in. So the best way to consistently get these quality solutions is to tackle relevant issues. Moreover, remind your team of their impact along the way.
No innovation challenge did this better than the Planned Parenthood and IDEO partnership in the Fast Company Innovation Challenge of 2016. Tackling a controversial topic, and in an area that affects everyone - health care - was almost a sure way to get high-value ideas from the participants. Working to innovate and change the experience of the clinic waiting room, this Fast Company winner undertook something that everyone has lived through, whether or not they’ve visited a Planned Parenthood. A relevant challenge, and obviously political, proved to be a success.
- Fast Company https://www.fastcodesign.com/3068536/announcing-the-2017-innovation-by-design-awards
- Harvard Business Review https://hbr.org/2015/12/what-is-disruptive-innovation