Have you ever wondered why Apple, Google, or Amazon excel in innovation? Innovation is thoroughly built into their DNA. This means they do not grow and then innovate. They grow because of continuous innovation- notice the distinction.
Companies often look to these players to get inspired by their innovation strategies. What type of innovation structure, size, budget, or people will make them innovation champions also? The truth is that external conditions can vary extensively, but the success or failure depends on a few crucial internal steps.
3 Common Reasons Why Innovation Strategies Fail and How to Prevent It
There are three main areas that serve as a foundation for a successful innovation practice: company culture, defined innovation processes, and active internal and external communication. What are the common, and less obvious, mishaps in these areas, and how can innovation teams prevent these?
Lack of Innovation Culture
The innovative spirit needs to be systematically built into the company philosophy. A lot of companies think that when they set up a dedicated innovation entity, such as a lab or accelerator, it will instantly make them innovation pioneers. However, the most important asset is innovation awareness of the whole company from top-down. Each executive and each employee should be informed about the opportunity to bring up new ideas, about the available support, how to support others, or, at minimum, get news about innovation activities taking place in the company. There are many ways to boost internal and external innovation efforts.
- Create opportunities for regular executive engagement - let them participate in idea evaluation, judging, or mentoring.
- Regularly report success stories - organize events that showcase the innovation process and the results of your efforts.
- Create opportunities for employee encouragement and engagement - start with highlighting achievements every week, and create engaging events, such as an innovation relay.
Missing Defined Innovation Processes
We tend to connect innovation with creativity and unlimited space for exploration without rules. The truth is that even the most creative innovator needs structure and processes to transform ambitious ideas into reality. Aside from preparing resources, you need clear steps to implement an idea that occurs. If you set up an activity, like a hackathon or an innovation challenge, you need to map out a clear step-by-step process. This process must include how you will use the results and engage with every single stakeholder in your company to transform the value of an idea into a tangible product or service. Each company needs to tie external innovation to internal architecture and policy answering the questions of who, what, when, where, and why innovation processes exist.
- Build a process around your employees: provide support, incentives, acknowledgment, rewards, and motivation.
- Explain the reason for setting up different timelines for different innovation goals - they will be different for one-off events versus complex innovation programs.
- Define innovation objectives for each area of your business and set up criteria for measuring success. Involve both the idea makers and a cross functional team so as to collect varied feedback.
- Talk about the need for innovation of your products as well as of your internal systems. You will notice that your innovation criteria overlap and are complimentary to your non-innovation goals.
- Prepare an integration process, budget, legal, and procurement support. Define timelines and stakeholder duties. This will allow you to move faster and with more confidence once you find the right idea to implement.
Keeping Innovation Top Secret
Often we have the tendency to perfect a project before showing it to anybody else or outside of the core team. This happens often when innovation teams set up an initiative under pressure and are fighting for resources or for existence. The team starts working diligently on a number of projects behind closed doors with the aim to implement all of them as soon as possible. They see the goal in showing results to company executives, and, often, they forget about the connection to the outside world. Innovation needs interaction with people who are familiar with the business and with others who bring insights from different perspectives. The main mistake is the misperception of innovation which is not a result but a process. A well set up process outlives the products that it innovates.
- Create and fight for the image of innovation as a long-term process
- Don’t try to win innovation tomorrow. Set up short, mid, and long-term goals. Clearly setting up expectations for employees and management is crucial for reducing pressure on delivering quick, but low-quality results. It helps to increase the patience of the leadership given that they have seen a timeline and know when to expect results.
- Talk about your results and achievements. Present even small success stories and connect them with people to showcase individual growth.
- Make innovation a cross functional, top-down strategy. Convince your leadership that innovation cannot be a siloed activity but has to involve the entire company. By default, it cannot be done behind closed doors.
- Connect to the outside world! Let others know that your company wants to interact with new ideas and opportunities; designate a contact person and space.
- Create opportunities to interact with external experts, share your strategy, and ask for feedback.
Successful Innovation Strategy: Mission Possible
Running an innovative company is not easy but also not impossible. You don’t need the budget from Apple, managers from Google, or engineers from Amazon. However, you do need a clear plan on how to integrate an innovative culture into the whole company. It won’t help to have an innovation office or hold an innovation event every quarter. Innovation in your company will thrive when people driving innovation are acknowledged and supported in their endeavor consistently.
Driving innovation requires defined processes that allow implementing new ideas and solutions so that they don’t end up only on paper. You don’t have to have all the processes set upfront; they can grow with the ideas but cannot be omitted as such. Last but not least, be open, and share your knowledge- don’t hide innovation activities from the rest of the company and the public. You will gain feedback and, also, great added value in return that can help improve your strategy. The essence of innovation is creating value for others, so there is no need to keep it to yourself at any point of the innovation process.
Check out RocketSpace's Ultimate Corporate Innovation Playbook to drive actionable solutions to your business challenges.