The Secret of Innovative Companies: It Isn’t R&D

Article 1 - 10 May 2013In rejecting the limiting belief that innovation is R&D’s job alone, leaders of highly innovative companies work hard to instill “innovation is everyone’s job” as a guiding organizational mission. Innovation is the lifeblood of our global economy and a strategic priority for virtually every CEO around the world.


Innovation starts at the top

The code for innovation is embedded in an organization’s people, processes and philosophies. The behavior of leaders matters – tremendously. In fact, innovative leaders weave a code for innovation deep into the world’s most innovative—and often most valuable—companies.

Innovation continues through all levels of the organization

By creating organizational processes that mirror their individual discovery behaviors, such leaders build their personal innovator’s DNA into their organizations. They also understand the critical need to attract creative people if the company hopes to build a cadre of innovators at all levels. Clearly, if companies want innovative ideas from employees, they should screen for innovation potential in the hiring process. For example, Virgin describes its people as “honest, cheeky, questioning, amusing, disruptive, intelligent and restless.”

Invest in innovation

Almost everywhere we go, we hear executives and professionals complain about having “no time” to innovate. Other leaders highlight factors such as short-term pressures from investors, talent deficiencies, the challenge of implementing innovation-friendly rewards structures, the still fuzzy nature of innovation, and in candid moments, their own discomfort with the different mental frames required to lead innovation. But in the end, innovation is an investment, in leadership and the team.

It’s time for leadership to step up. Top executives who value innovation need to point their fingers not at others but themselves. They must lead the innovation charge by understanding how innovation works, improving their own discovery skills, and sharpening their ability to foster the innovation of others. Moreover, they must actively populate their organizations with enough discovery-driven innovators to make innovation a team game that translates into tangible and sustainable innovation premiums.

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