Everything is fluid, everything can change at a moment’s notice, so build a business that can handle an uncertain future with innovative thinking, says Brian Timperley, the CEO and co-founder of Turrito Networks
Innovation is an overused term for a reason. It’s more than just creating new solutions, building new products and breaking down barriers. Innovation is a mindset, one that should be embedded into the very fabric of a company’s culture to ensure that the business is agile enough to cope with the leagues of uncertainty that lie ahead. In the current market, globally and locally, everything is constantly in flux – people, business, markets, demands, environments. As McKinsey points out, innovation is the business launchpad out from underneath the COVID-19 crisis as it’s a way of thinking that will drive growth, performance and optimisation.
Innovation is traditionally seen as building new products and services, or being creative and improving customer perceptions. It is all these things, but it’s also finding new and effective ways of delivering services and solutions to customers… enhancing customer experience. Organisations have to constantly look at different ways of approaching problems and adapting both long and short-term strategies. Most companies that are still standing today have adapted their strategies in some shape or form, to remain on solid business foundations. They have had to regroup, rethink and redefine. This is agility in thinking is the hallmark of innovative business culture and ensures that the company is capable of adapting direction when the markets demand it.
This is a mindset that asks leaders and employees alike to look at how the business can improve customer experiences and service delivery, then build new product sets that meet the requirements of an ever-evolving customer landscape, and constantly question how the business does each of these actions effectively. Very often, the danger of innovation is that a company sets itself on a path of delivery or improvement, but is failing to see the proverbial wood for the trees. A culture defined by innovation is equally defined by diversity in thinking. If only a select few are innovating, the ideas will always be shallower and lack scope. If innovation is limited to a specific demographic or gender, the outcome will be severely limited. People have only their scope and perspectives to draw on, and this can be fundamentally limiting if the same people undertake the same tasks.
It is also inhibited by the idea of a person being innovative or not. No one individual or role will define innovation for an organisation – this is the opposite of innovation. Silos will always inhibit the organisation’s ability to truly think outside that box, move in unexpected directions, and change the shape of customer engagement. An inclusive and diverse culture that asks for ideas of every person within its walls will very likely come up with unexpectedly great ideas. Of course, there will be unusual or unusable ideas in the mix, but even these ideas spark new directions or alternatives in the grand scheme of innovation. It takes unusual ideas to solve problems in uncertain times, and it is important to remember that a rigid culture is competitive and comparative and erodes innovation. Innovation comes from inclusion and mutual respect.
Building an innovation-driven culture requires diversity, but it also requires collaboration and open dialogue. The more collaborative the environment, the more likely it is that employees will feel empowered to contribute. This means that the business has to remove egos from the equation. People will not confidently share ideas if they’re stuck in a room with an overbearing personality. The more people feel they can contribute, the more they will share their unique perspectives, and these are invaluable.
The last things to consider are consistency and responsibility. If the organisation encourages every individual to do their best and be as consistent as possible within their roles, and how they contribute to the overall success of the business, then it will deliver results. In addition, if people feel that they have the freedom to come forward with ideas, point out flaws and show new ways of working, then they are taking responsibility for the future of the company and this needs to become part of a business’s day-to-day culture. Giving people this level of responsibility, encouraging their engagement, and consistently recognising these qualities as critical to the business will embed innovation into the very fabric of the organisation.