Increasing innovation within an existing organization, particularly a large company, can be challenging. There are many structures in place to protect the status quo, because the status quo has been successful and helped you build your company to where it is today! However, if you want to change things up, expand your company into a new direction, or simply improve some practices, you will need to build systems for agility, risk and safety into your business.
If your business already has a structure in place for every process and the number one goal is efficiency, you are likely not serving as a model for innovation. Innovators are generally not linear thinkers. However, this type of thinker can greatly increase the efficiency of some processes as they can quickly figure out which steps can be skipped in certain situations.
If you want to find the innovators within you company, it’s important that you look for problem solvers. These are the people who love puzzles. If you have an employee that is happiest when handed a tangled mess of data or vague problem to solve, you’ve found an innovator. This person will strive for the goal in a non-linear fashion.
The entrepreneurial business model for innovation can reduce the discomfort of risk. In a large organization with well-established processes, efficiency and the ability to scale are both prized and profitable.
However, tackling new problems or developing new products means that you may have to break away from a focus on efficiency and allow for some risk. When risk is introduced, the chance of failure goes up. Employees encouraged to engage in innovative thinking need to know that failure is not the end of the process and that they have your support in iterating and failing fast.
It’s also important to remember that failure is a great teacher and an effective method of learning. If you’ve ever scrambled a spreadsheet and had to put it back together, you understand the teaching power of failure.
If you’re seeking help from outside entrepreneurial thinkers to help you build a model for innovation in your organization, they will help you build a sense of safety for your current employees.
Failing fast and moving on to the next iteration are constants in the entrepreneurial world. When working to increase your iteration rate, be sure to get your innovation team in touch with your customers. Building a better understanding of what your customers need is an excellent way to increase non-linear thinking, increase the size of your innovation team, and build stronger relationships with your customer base.
Both the outside entrepreneur and corporate employees need the support of upper management during the failure process.
More Than Big Idea People
It’s great to have visionary leaders who come up with exciting goals. However, corporate leadership needs to keep an eye on their big implementation people; that is, the “soldiers” who put those big ideas into place and actually make them function.
If your implementation team doesn’t have the time and tools to put big ideas into place, your organization will become mired in workplace politics. Not everyone is an innovator and this may leave those who efficiently scale up existing projects feeling vulnerable and unappreciated.
When innovators hit a home run, your organization needs to celebrate! If your innovation team produces something patent-worthy, make sure that your patent award displays get updated and that this success is visible.
Include the entire team in this award process.
- Administrative Support
- Quality Control
and many other areas of your organization participated in this success. By bringing all of them into the limelight, you will demonstrate that all forms of thinking and effort are supported by the leadership of your organization.
This celebration can take many forms. You’ll need a press release, so why not have a party or reception that generates some new coverage for your business? Patent plaques, trophies and the official mounting of the patent display award wall can be presented, celebrated and remembered.
Most importantly, make sure that everyone sees that you have space for more patents and that everyone in the organization is welcomed to contribute.
Large organizations can be agile and still be stable. Both linear thinkers and those who like to bounce around a bit have something to contribute to the current and future success of your business. Here’s to growth and success!