In the age of the fourth industrial revolution, innovation will be at the heart of companies navigating digital transformation.
But what does innovation mean today?
In short, it is the sum total of the value generated from changes in the processes, products, and services that enhance quality. To create value means creating value not just for your customers, but also the employees and other stakeholders.
So how exactly can organizations and individuals create value?
One way to do this is through continuous and committed learning. The key is to leverage opportunities to learn, both informally and formally through a network of experts and employee experience. If innovation is this simple in theory, why then do we fail to innovate? And why do some companies continuously innovate while others don’t? The answer may lie in tackling the barriers to innovation.
Barriers to Innovation
Innovation in companies closely tied to the priorities and attitudes of senior leadership. Here are some top barriers.
- Lack of time or budget: There’s a misperception that innovation calls for a significant investment of time and money. On the contrary, the learning mandate, which forms the base of innovation has never been more easily accessible. Whether this is through bite-sized learning through digital platforms or social learning. In addition to this, employees themselves are a source of innovative ideas and learning content. Top leaders must support and recognize what’s relevant to the business.
- Not having the right people: Another misperception is the belief that innovation requires a brand-new team of “creative people”, or fresh talent from leading companies and business schools. Innovation is best achieved with the people you already have because an innovation culture is not just about one or two teams but shifting the mindset of the entire organization.
- Not a priority: Innovation seldom features in the “urgent” quadrant, although it definitely fits into “important”. Naturally, leaders tend to push aside the innovation agenda in favor of ‘fire-fighting’ matters.
- The belief that “I am not innovative”: Some leaders may get stuck with a false-belief that then establishes causality to a lack of innovative ideas. Leaders should ask themselves the question, at an individual and business level- What is it that you do naturally, almost unconsciously, that you are known for?
- The belief that “Everything is working fine”: As a leader, you may love the status quo, but that is a mistake. You may not know what it is that differentiates your customers and competition if you’re not keeping up with the changing preference. You must not be afraid to break what could be reassembled in a more value-creating way.
- Lack of leadership support: Cultivating a culture of innovation is not easy, it requires strong stakeholder-support. As a leader, you must be willing to influence naysayers, re-structure your performance evaluations, create an innovation-agenda at all meetings, and encourage and advocate new ideas.
How to overcome barriers to innovation?
- Know your people: Clifton’s Strengths Finder 2.0, Myers-Briggs, DiSC and Kolb’s Learning Style etc. are some tools designed to understand employees better- their needs, aspirations, motivations. Leverage people data to genuinely understand y and our employees and support them.
- Staff adequately: While creating teams make sure to leverage the best of each person’s abilities. We are the most creative and innovative when we do and be more of whom we already are when we are at our best. Creating a reactive culture can the opposite effects.
- Empower people with the right resources: Whether it is access to learning tools, gamification on-the-go, or idea-generation and discussion forums, enable people to experience the buzz of innovation early-on.
- Cultivate an innovation culture: Offer impetus (performance rewards, recognition etc.) for learning efforts and outcomes. Support failure, reward effort (and not just outcomes) and more importantly, encourage learning from failures and not only successes because innovation and failure go hand-in-hand.
- Prioritize Innovation: Think and act collaboratively to create brilliant paths to profitable opportunities. Mobilize innovation consensus amongst leadership and beyond and make it measurable by tying innovation to company and department measures.
At the core, innovation is about discovering the unique value that each of the current employees brings to work every day. Innovation is a necessity today, and one that every leader must embrace wholeheartedly. This starts with innovating to innovate. As said by Steve Jobs, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”
This article is curated based on a Pluralsight whitepaper on this same topic.