Better, cheaper, faster. These words have become the matra of today’s business world. Technology is reinventing itself at an exponential rate driving businesses to seek new and innovative ways to meet growing customer and shareholder expectations. But creating a work environment where innovation flourishes doesn’t just happen. It requires four key elements: Leadership, Ideas, Tools and Execution (LITE)
Leadership: Leaders play a significant role in facilitating an innovative work environment. By providing a clear vision for the future, facilitating idea sharing and collaboration, encouraging risk-taking, valuing employee input and rewarding success, leaders set the tone that allows innovation to flourish.
Ideas: Innovation can’t exist without bright ideas. Some of the best ideas come from the people who are closest to the work. They have first-hand experience with products and processes and most likely have a lot of innovative ideas on how to make things better. But don’t overlook the input of those who may know little about the process or product or have a different background as they bring a diverse perspective to the table and usually ask really good questions. Benchmarking is another way to generate ideas. This can be done by visiting other organizations or by researching ideas on the web. The purpose is not to copy what others are doing but to use their experience and success to spark discussion that can generate innovative ideas on how to improve business, serve customers and achieve excellence.
Tools: Ideas are just ideas unless you put them into action. There are many process tools that can help integrate an innovative product or concept into a company’s existing infrastructure or if needed, design new infrastructure. Prioritization tools, process maps and risk analysis are three key tools that facilitate the translation of ideas into actions. Change Management tools are also important when introducing innovative ideas or changing processes. There is nothing more disappointing than having a great idea that falls flat due to lack of buy-in from the workforce. It’s important to keep in mind that with any idea, the two most important questions to ask is “Does the idea align with your corporate strategy?” and “What will be measured to know that the idea was a success?”
Execution: You’ve got an innovative idea, you’ve built a robust action plan, you’ve prepared the organization for change and now it’s time to put things into action. Execution matters. Done well, it can fundamentally change your business results and in the end it’s all about results. Did your innovative idea work and did you get the results you anticipated? Results might take the form of increased production, reduced cost, increased sales, reduced cycle time, elimination of defects, or increased customer satisfaction. It is important to measure and validate results. It’s also important to continue measuring results to make sure that success is sustained. We all know how easy it is to revert back to the old way of doing things.
Creating a workplace where innovation flourishes requires much more than naming an innovation leader, creating an innovation department or just telling people to be more creative. It requires engaging LEADERSHIP, an environment where IDEAS are encouraged and valued, TOOLS to translate ideas into plans and EXECUTION to make it so. Put these together and you too can LITE up your bright ideas and make innovation work for you.