Cultivating a culture of innovation is critical to company success

By Eamonn Percy 

You want your company to thrive because it innovates, not innovate to survive.

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Eamonn Percy

Major changes in the global economy, technology and demographics are significantly disrupting many industry sectors, putting a squeeze on profit margins of companies in status quo mode, while rewarding the innovators with new opportunities and stronger market positions.

By building a culture of innovation into the DNA of your leadership and company you become more competitively positioned and create greater long-term shareholder value. Business leadership must be persistent, aggressive and focused in transforming the company, so innovation becomes the way you are, not something you do.

The six keys to building a culture of innovation are:

Make innovation a strategic priority. Ensure you develop and implement a strategic plan to grow your organization, and make innovation a key priority within that plan. Review and update the strategic plan at least once a year to ensure the organization is aligned with the achievement of the plan, and consistently measure your progress against its goals.

Communicate why innovation is a priority. Communicate to all levels of your organization, so employees are aware of your plans, understand their roles, are committed to taking action and can define success. Provide regular and meaningful updates on progress. Be clear and transparent. Create a common language in order to achieve greater organizational cohesion.

Implement a system that enables innovation. For a business initiative to become successful, it will need a system to nurture, support and measure it. For instance, you could select a system like Lean, which started in manufacturing and now is being adopted in health care and technology, as the backbone of driving transformative thinking. Or give people time to pursue innovation (Google, for example, gives its employees 20% of their time to innovate).

Lead by example. Take the time to focus on becoming a better business leader, so you can set an example to others, particularly during difficult or critical periods. Nothing will make the cultural change more successful than this one act. Be persistent, be authentic and be open to opportunity.

Hire, train and build innovative talent.  Make the recruitment and retention of key staff who support your innovation strategy a key priority. Help your current staff to develop new skills and find the right way to contribute in a more  innovative environment,  while hiring new staff who can fill the gaps and who have the skills to drive innovation. Be consistently focused on market problems and customer needs.

Fail faster. Encourage more risk-taking and make failing for taking measured risks both acceptable and an opportunity. Find ways to reduce the failure cycle time, which will drive new opportunities from the failures, and move the company ahead faster. Don’t innovate for the sake of it. Instead, use innovation as a core strategy to build a dominant market position and enable your company to adapt, transform and create long-term shareholder value well into the future.

Eamonn Percy (@EamonnPercy) is a business adviser, investor and speaker. This article first appeared in the July 8–14, 2014 edition of BUSINESS VANCOUVER and is reproduced here with the kind permission of the author.



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