Facebook yesterday held a live video following their latest hackathon. Im a huge fan of making innovation an integral part of your business. Execution of your day job and delivering results are of course vital but without an overall strategy and theme including innovation you will be lessening your opportunity to drive your business ahead at speed. Does his mean you need hackathons? No, not necessarily. And innovation isn’t anything to be scared of – it doesn’t mean expensive off-site, laboratory tests and huge tech spend. It is simply a way of thinking. Every employee should be innovating and encouraged to do so in their job. So how do you foster it?
Well there are a number of ways to get this truly embedded.
I always ensure my teams have at least one innovation session every 6 months. That’s not a big commitment and you can squeeze that time in easily enough. You need to get away from the desks and preferably into a pleasant environment like a park or somewhere free from reminders about the day job. You can’t simply turn up and brainstorm ideas with no direction. You should be focused on trying to solve a problem. What is a common customer issue or internal problem. Try running groups against each other to add some healthy competition and therefore incentive to produce some solid outputs. This isn’t something that only applies to the tech or creative parts of the business – you should be doing this with product development, accounting – everywhere.
This is often a real cop-out. Simply put something into people’s objectives and it means you’ve got it covered right? You can always skip over it at the year end review if you’ve had a busy year. No! I support the need for innovation to be in your teams objectives but it needs to be meaningful. You wouldn’t have an objective of “try and sell more stuff” – you’d have a clear target and you need to be specific with innovation too. How do you measure it? Well, you can expect a fresh idea that has been thought through at least once a month. You can look for people who are working to change the way the business runs for the better. Entrepreneurs don’t always start businesses remember – sometimes they change them from the inside.
Ok so that’s one of the ridiculous corporate terms we all love to hate but I couldn’t resist, sorry! Seriously though innovation needs to be driven from the top. You can’t expect your people to be innovative when you don’t include it in your values, don’t ever talk about, show no innovation in the leadership team and demonstrate no support for innovation. You must communicate it and encourage it and reward it. Think about that. Rewarding people who achieve sales targets but not rewarding people who are changing your business to enable further growth causes resentment as the innovators will start to see that sales people are being rewarded for their efforts. Demonstrate a real belief in it.
I guarantee you that innovation is increasingly becoming one of the keys to success. Business is moving beyond the 20th century model of stability into a far more flexible, fast-changing challenge and if you don’t innovate you can guarantee your competitors will and where does that leave you. We should always be looking to change for the better. It’s fine to make mistakes on that journey as long as we learn from them and correct them quickly.
So please, get up and innovate. You never know, you might even enjoy it.