Creating an Innovative Culture — Four Guiding Principles
Unlike complacent companies that continue to limp along with lackluster results, thriving organizations and leaders continuously innovate as a part of their cultural DNA. They rigorously seek out opportunities to:
- Remain highly competitive and relevant
- Retain their existing customers and attract new
- Significantly increase their market share
- Markedly boost their profitability
- Adeptly acquire and retain top talent
- Realize high impact operating efficiencies
What is it about innovative organizations that cause them to stand out from the rest of the pack? While many factors come into play, innovation-savvy organizations keenly recognize the below guiding principles:
- Innovative ideas come in all sorts of different flavors — not just the one incredibly amazing, ground-breaking idea that comes along every once in a great while. Organizations that continue to wait for that next silver bullet are allowing countless, lower-hanging fruit opportunities to rapidly slip through their fingers. They simply don't understand the opportunity levers that are in play.
The best-of-the-best continuously seek out and act on innovative ideas that will help them:
- Strengthen their profitability models by thoroughly understanding and driving toward what customers truly value.
- Augment their capability shortfalls by partnering with exceptional companies who can successfully fill the gaps.
- Properly align their people and their talents with strategy execution and goal attainment.
- Increase throughput, quality outcomes and customer satisfaction by implementing proven, repeatable, agile and oftentimes proprietary processes.
- Critically think through how hard and soft assets should be vetted, acquired, implemented, maintained and leveraged to optimize their value while containing complexities.
- Introduce new and enhanced products and services that deliver superior performance.
- Create complementary products and services that captivate and delight their customers.
- Provide easy-to-use product and service features, functionality and support systems that "wow" existing customers and attract new customers.
- Conveniently connect with their customers by understanding their customers' buying habits then designing the best product and service delivery channels.
- Enhance their brand so their customers recognize, remember and prefer their offerings to those of their competitors.
- Emotionally engage their customers by offering unique products and services that enhance and transform their customers' lives.
- Innovative ideas are plentiful if you look in the right places. Those folks who continuously interact with customers, e.g., front-line personnel, are the ones who develop the genuine connection and, if well-trained, actively listen to and ask probing questions around their customers' needs and wants. Unfortunately, many companies have deluded themselves into believing that the leadership team knows best. How could they when they're so far removed from the customer experience?
- Innovation is driven by intentionality versus happenchance. It is not a coincidence that highly innovative organizations thoughtfully and carefully design, construct, implement and continuously refine systematic approaches that cultivate idea-generating and idea-embracing strategies and policies, goals and objectives, leaders and staff, methods and tools, executable approaches and performance measures and incentives.
- Innovation trumps tactics. Too often organizations and their leaders live within the tactical weeds, which forces all levels, including front-line personnel, to do more of the same. Companies who predominantly focus on the minutia get so swallowed up in the day-to-day tactics that they lose sight of how to stay competitive and relevant in the eyes of their customers.
Building a highly functioning, self-sustaining, innovative organization isn't easy. One must first understand what it means to be "innovative", then devise and implement a well-constructed model whereby innovating becomes a cultural norm.