Good answers are usually preceded by good questions, and if you’re asking yourself how your company can become more innovative, here’s a few questions to consider.
What is the thing we do better than anyone else?
When you play to your strengths and focus on those things you do well, it sets the stage for breakthrough discoveries. Sometimes this means discontinuing peripheral activities to focus on excelling at your core competency. One recent example of an innovative company that’s doing this is Nike. The company decided to create strategic partnerships outside of Nike to continue to advance the FuelBand and wearables line. Nike will remain competitive in the space by working with partners more focused on integrated systems as their core competencies.
Do we have a vision and a visionary?
Often we talk about vision and direction but sometimes culture needs a champion. A visionary individual not only encourages others to dream but guides the tangible vision that can be absorbed by those within the organization as to the where and why a specific direction has been chosen.
Are employees empowered?
Having employees that are encouraged to bring their new ideas forth and a system to capture them in real time is critical. People within an organization need to know their voice is heard and see progress in the company based on their feedback. Otherwise leadership risks eroding trust in soliciting feedback. When team members across the organization see internal ideas go from concept to delivery, it has an energizing effect.
Are we willing to risk failure?
Innovation requires pushing the envelope by getting outside of your comfort zone. This is not in contradiction to the first question above, but rather about pushing the envelope as opposed to playing it safe. When Apple launched the 1993 Newton hand held device, it was by many accounts, a failure, but in many ways the Newton laid the groundwork for future PDAs and the iPad.
Are we changing the way people think?
True innovators don’t simply make minor version changes to put their companies on the map. Innovators influence how people think of and interact with a product. Innovators have the ability to evolve a customer experience, making it better and different than before. Visionary innovators like Henry Ford and Steve Jobs didn’t just improve existing products, they developed new markets that previously didn’t exist.
Innovation has a lot to do with the science of putting the right structure in place to enable creativity. It takes more than a few new features to stay ahead of the innovation curve. Share your thoughts on what makes companies innovative in the comments below. Find more resources for product innovation and join the LinkedIn Product Delivery group to keep up on the most innovative companies and industries.