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What’s the reason behind the continued success of many well-known companies? Is it their corporate structure, their sales strategy, or brand recognition? My belief is that corporations thrive due to their ability to innovate on a sustainable basis. And this ability is innately better in those corporations that articulate “why they exist” very well to their internal and external stakeholders. This anchors their staff and their suppliers to their vision, which makes innovation easier than otherwise.
There are several examples of companies that do this very well, such as Apple, Google, and Netflix, and it’s amazing how they keep reinventing themselves over time.
Assuming this has been done well by your organization, the next step would be to create a model that makes the process of innovation easy to understand and disseminate. IN-N-O-V-A-T-E is a simple model to drive innovation and help you figure which step your organization or team is missing. In my experience, there are 7 critical steps that one needs to adopt to achieve sustainable success in driving innovation.
IN – Be Interested! Only when we are Interested can we engage better with our teams, clients, and their customers. This will help us listen and empathize with the problems of our customers or staff. This is a critical step in innovation. It is easier to create and nurture a culture of innovation only when employees are encouraged to challenge the status quo and ask the right questions.
N – New Ideas! Every innovation germinates as an idea. Be interested, engaged, and listen, and we can create a platform for generating new ideas. You may have heard of buzzwords such as right-brain thinking, lateral thinking, out-of-the-box thinking, and so on, as well as several evolved methods for the idea-generating process. However, the key is to initiate the right culture so that we always have access to an abundant idea pool in our pipeline that gives us a segway into the next critical step.
O – Opt! From the idea pool, it is critical to identify and prioritize the right ideas to work on. Unlike in academic research, most corporate contexts allow limited time and resources for abundant problem sets. It is important to opt or pick the right problems to solve so that adequate time and resources can be deployed to solving them. The irony is that the best solutions emerge when you have inadequate resources and limited time as they push teams to think differently.
V – Validate! Once we have a solution available for shortlisted ideas, as a part of the validating process the next step is to run a prototype or a pilot. This helps to quarantine the area of impact and allows us to establish measures of success and validate improvements through their movement.
A – Adopt! One of the most significant steps of increasing impact is adopting a successful pilot in a consistent environment. To enable adoption at breakneck speed, one needs to involve all relevant stakeholders in the process of validation.
T – Tell your story! Many innovative solutions fail at this juncture. A success story influences two important outcomes: first, it allows for recognition of teams/individuals who were involved and have contributed to the successful outcome. Second, it creates an environment that breeds more innovation.
E – Emulate! For exponential results, it is critical to drive a culture of cross-pollination. Applying successful innovation in different contexts within the organization requires significant execution skills. Teams that borrow ideas will intuitively be less motivated than teams that have generated their own ideas. Rampant cross-pollination of ideas reflects strong and a cohesive leadership.
As Bob Dylan’s song goes, “These times, they are a changin”! And changing they are, more rapidly than ever before. While the number of companies that is innovating may have reduced, those that do so are disrupting the marketplace with their innovative business models. There’s just one way to go from here, and that is to build a culture that encourages and nurtures innovation.
-By Anil Kumar - Director Operations, Concentrix India