The end of the year is a time for reflection and introspection. But the new year also brings the promise of new opportunities. Many of us treat the new year like a fresh start, a blank slate with which we can create our new and improved selves. If new year’s resolutions work for you in your personal life, why not use them to help your organization be more innovative in 2021?
If innovation is a priority for you next year – and with the global pandemic disrupting supply chains and shifting customer preferences everywhere, who isn’t prioritizing innovation? – consider making one of these resolutions a part of your plan:
Boston Consulting Group (BCG) produces an annual report of the world’s most innovative companies. Analysis of this year’s data revealed that one of the key differences between the innovation “leaders” and “laggards” was ambition.
To inspire innovation, your organization needs all players to understand its importance and how it aligns with corporate objectives. Create a clear and common understanding of what innovation means to your company by making it a part of your mission.
At Modu-Loc, “Vision & Innovation” is one of our core values. Many of the organizations listed in BCG’s report have also incorporated innovation and invention into their company values. One of Amazon’s leadership principles is “Invent and Simplify”, which states that “leaders expect and require innovation and invention from their teams and always find ways to simplify”. Similarly, Microsoft lists “Innovation” as an expression of their mission on their website.
Make one of your resolutions this year to incorporate innovation into your company values or mission statement.
Once innovation is a core principle in your organization’s mission or business strategy, it’s easier to hold all team members accountable for driving forward progress. Yes, it’s true that some organizations assign the responsibility for product development and process innovation to a handful of employees. However, the reality is that anybody could have the next million-dollar idea.
If your goal is to be more innovative in 2021, make it a resolution to encourage innovation and ideation in all departments and job functions. Here are some ways you can reinforce the idea that all employees are expected to play a role in innovation.
Innovation requires us to have a mindset focused on discovery. Now that your team members understand the role they play in ideation, be sure to encourage their curiosity to fuel creativity. In the words of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, you should “push to be more of a learn-it-all culture than a know-it-all culture”.
This could mean allowing your employees to take several hours each month to attend webinars or participate in online courses. Set aside some budget for your employees to engage in continued learning and development. Or take it one step further and host your own internal speaker series, inviting presenters to give keynotes about disruption, resilience, and innovation.
Encourage your employees to ask questions and challenge the status quo. Give them the freedom to try new ideas. Consider allowing cross-functional training so that individuals can be exposed to new areas of the business. This can foster a deeper understanding of the needs and challenges of other departments, but it can also provide a fresh, outside perspective to optimize existing processes.
Resolve to create an environment where employees feel comfortable bringing forth ideas and supported in taking risks. Here are some ideas to help cultivate a culture of innovation:
Reward employees who demonstrate creative thinking or propose new ideas. Highlight their innovations in your company newsletter and other internal communications channels, like Slack or MS Teams. At Modu-Loc, we host annual employee awards where we celebrate an individual who embodies Vision & Innovation.
Hold an internal contest or challenge to find the most creative ideas. For example, multinational tech company Cisco held a wildly successful program called the Innovate Everywhere Challenge. More than 2,000 employee teams and individuals submitted over 1,100 ideas for the chance to receive funding and other resources to bring their innovation to life.
Create employee feedback channels dedicated to soliciting new ideas. This could be as simple as a suggestion box (or digital equivalent), or as involved as an ad hoc committee. At Modu-Loc, we formed Regional Steering Committees, which meet bimonthly to discuss challenges, opportunities, and new ideas raised by front-line employees. The Committees are made up of employees from various departments and branches and led by members of our Leadership Team. Feedback from the committees is then reported directly to the rest of the Leadership Team, where it can be acted upon.
Put some money behind your plan to be more innovative in 2021. Once you have the buy-in and a proper framework in place, the next step is to make budget available to support innovation.
Consider creating an experimentation fund so that new concepts can actually be tested. Having that money set aside will ensure you are always prepared to pursue any viable ideas raised by your team. You could take it a step further and implement an innovation lab, with a dedicated team and budget.
Of course, you’ll need to define some parameters to determine which ideas are worth funding. Though innovation should be everyone’s responsibility, it’s important to properly manage the “innovation funnel”. After all, you’ll want to ensure you’re pursuing ideas that align with organizational objectives and big-picture strategy. Therefore, investing in innovation could also mean hiring or promoting someone into a dedicated research and development leadership role. This person should oversee execution of new concepts, from the ideation stage through to implementation and launch.
Support your in-house development with external innovation partners. Again, hiring experts to provide keynote presentation or host workshops is a great way to foster a culture of innovation. You could also work with a business incubator or accelerator.
No matter the approach, investing in innovation is what will make this a viable resolution rather than a pie-in-the-sky aspiration.
For any resolution to be successful, you need to have a clear objective and a plan to attain it. Simply wanting to be more innovative or knowing you should prioritize innovation is not enough. Make innovation your company’s mission, foster a culture of creativity and invest in the proper frameworks and you’ll be off to the races.
Looking for more ideas? We like your enthusiasm! This mindset of discovery will certainly aid you in your mission to be more innovative next year. To help you out, here are some additional resources:
We’re here to answer any questions you may have.