How important is innovation in business? Take a while and reflect over that question.

To simplify that flickering thought of yours, here’s what Steve Jobs had to say:

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower”

I believe that gives us a fair idea about the significance of innovation.

Okay, but not everyone wants to be a leader, then why cultivate innovation?

According to McKinsey’s report, 80% of business leaders predict that their current business models are at risk, while 84% attribute lack of innovation as the key factor.
Over the next 10 years, approximately 50% of the companies placed on the Fortune 500 list are to be replaced. And who’s to blame, any guesses? That’s right, absence of Innovation.

So, now that it's clear that without innovation, there’s no potential for growth or economic prosperity, what should be done to foster innovation in an organization?

A flat management structure? A non-autocratic structure that allows for a sense of freedom? A space that allows for easy dialogue and communication?

Yes, true, a leader must focus on all of them. But are you investing in each of these aspects in your business model and still not getting your hands on the innovation you were striving for?

Time to put on your thinking cap and figure out and review what is going haywire!  Check out these 7 things that leaders should not do if they want innovation:

  1. Stop Focusing On Selling

Yes, you’re selling a room we get it, but so are a thousand others & that’s definitely not going to attract consumers. However, if you advertise a comfortable, elite, premium experience in that hotel then that surely will catch eyes! Focusing on the problem, rather than your product or service requires market research and target audience analysis.

“We can believe that we know where the world should go. But unless we’re in touch with our customers, our model of the world can diverge from reality” - Steve Ballmer.

Understanding your customers thoroughly permits you a window of opportunity to not just suffice your brand value, but also allows you and the business to deliver new solutions that focus their needs. Interacting with customers lets you cater to your audience and originate promising innovations to take your quantum leap before your competitors and existing players. Assessing and researching your customers is one of the most important skills for a salesperson (Check out 5 skills to spot for in a salesperson).

Remember what Tim Berry had to say, “The business that depends on innovation usually positions itself on innovation and loses big time when someone else comes up with the next bigger, faster and better”.

2. Stop Thinking About Short Term Wins

Who doesn't love having money at the end of the day, umm everyone! But focusing on short term gains and problems will surely not make you the next Steve Jobs or result in a product like Macintosh. Delegating issues and pivoting on the strategic ones that move your needle is the best way to seek innovation.

Stop anchoring on questions & the same metrics that were used in decade old firms like “what’s the profit, sales or ROI”. To lay a foundation for innovation, curating the right questions that are not just customer-focused but also relevant to the topical times is imperative. Adopting and leveraging the current technologies rather than implementing those that result in cost reduction will lead to nothing but a loss in brand value! It’s crucial to think exponentially and focus on the upcoming future and build, invest and innovate accordingly.

3. Stop Demotivating and Discouraging Failure

You can’t expect someone to experiment and then criticise them for failing. Failure is a step you can’t skip towards your journey of success and often what stops one from innovating is the chance of failing. Note what Brene Brown had to say,

“There is no innovation and creativity without failure. Period.”

Mistakes should be used to shed light on insights and further stimulate innovation. Hitting the bull’s eye in one go can be hard, surprising how everyone celebrates Steve Jobs success but doesn’t recall the failed Apple computers he buried in Utah? Don’t create a culture where a bold, risk-taker with brave ideas are encouraged, if you can't render for a safe, “its okay to fail” environment, because all you’re then doing is creating fear. If you are disincentivizing entrepreneurial behaviours like failure then you’re killing innovation too! So glorify the failures, appreciate the risk, empower and motivate your team for more!

4. Stop Devaluing Your Team

Just because they’re at a lower level, don’t push away their suggestions especially if you claim to prosper an innovation-based culture. Allow for contribution, collaboration and innovation via brainstorming sessions, off-site meetings or other bonding activities. Do not dismiss their ideas, take a note of it, and if promising, encourage them by acting upon implementation. Lack of subsequent execution would lead to them feeling undervalued and demotivate them to give further ideas. A report by University of California stated that motivated employees are 31% more productive, had 37% more sales and 3x more creative than demotivated ones, oh and also 87% less likely to quit! Research by Gallup indicated that a startling 70% of an employee’s motivation is influenced by their manager. So it's not the job they quit, they leave their managers.

If you do put into effect their idea, make sure to provide for credit. Not being recognized for an achievement is a big de-motivator, if an idea of theirs is successful, commemorate and praise them! It’ll lead to healthy competition amongst those watching the celebration and cause for them to come up with some too!

5. Stop Scaring Them Away

Yes, risks are scary, but Bill Gates took one too when he dropped out of college and where’s he now? The owner of one of the biggest companies, Microsoft.

In Mark Zuckerberg’s words,

“In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”

Let your employees know the positives that can arise by creating a paradigm of fear and failure, and how high performance needs one to be okay with taking risks. Remind them that stagnation will get them nowhere!

Another way, employers are a barrier from empowering employees to innovate is by having a perception that it will distract them from their daily duties. Approximately 37% of employees do not feel empowered to take risks or try new ideas. It is important to understand that without the necessary support and leadership of managers, internal innovation would not eventuate at all.

6. Stop Hiring A Team With Similar Attributes

For innovation to plough, different attitudes and perspectives are needed. Thus, building diverse teams can lead to innovative initiatives and a wealth of varying ideas, experiences and backgrounds. An insights report by Forbes claims that diversity is a key driver of innovation and one of the foremost factors of achieving global success.

The very same report studies of companies with more than $10 billion revenues annually reveal that 56% strongly agreed that diversity helps drive innovation.

“Because of our diverse workforce, we’ve experienced a boost in productivity. When you can move people to contribute to their fullest, it has a tremendous impact,” noted Rosalind Hudnell, director of global diversity and inclusion at chip maker Intel.

Employing a diverse workforce adds positive tension while interacting with different group members allows for creative ideas, question others and reconsider your own proposals too.

One might argue that if we’re earning fine with the way we are currently operating, then why innovate? Charles Kettering said, “If you have always done it that way, it is probably wrong”. Invest in people, invest in ideas, invest in innovation, because that is the calling card for the future.

Innovation Leadership Team Building