Why is Innovation Important

By Hannah Berglund | Innovation
May 16, 2019

Over the years we have exhausted the term “innovation.” How many times have you heard “innovate or die” or read articles about how to create a culture of innovation? While the term might seem overused, it remains a critical way of thinking for any successful company. But the question still stands: why is innovation important? And even further, how do you know if you’re faking it?

The importance of innovation in today’s world of work.

When you consider how Apple changed the music industry, what Uber did to the taxi business, or what Amazon has done to, well, everything, you can’t ignore the importance of innovation as a means of turning the world upside down.

Now, you may be thinking, sure, innovation can turn the world upside down, but why is it important to my organization? The short answer? It allows you to stay in business, when done correctly that is. The world of work today is filled with disruption and is ruled by customer expectations and demands. Innovation is the lifeboat that will allow you to successfully navigate such waters.

For many organizations the biggest impediment to innovation is fear. Fear of asking for bigger budgets and tools to help employees innovate. Fear of searching and implementing new tools into their infrastructure. And fear of over restructuring their organizations to drive toward innovation.

The shortest path to innovation involves an active executive sponsorship and direction.  Innovation has to be embedded in the organization’s DNA from the top down. Someone has to be responsible. The organization needs a structure to back it up, metrics to measure it, budget to support it, and a pipeline with a free flow of ideas established.

Investment in tools isn’t enough. According to a recent Deloitte report, organizations spend more than $100 billion annually to improve employee engagement to drive innovation. And yet, 85 percent of employees globally remain disengaged, costing about $7 trillion in lost productivity, according to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace Report.

That’s why it’s so important to combine technology with a change in culture and processes. Successful companies are finding new ways to harness employee engagement for innovation through a continuous process of discovery, invention, and reinvention.

For these companies, a culture of innovation is at the top of their innovation strategy. When innovation becomes part of your company’s culture, it generates sustained ideation by inspiring employees to become more engaged and invested in your company’s success.

Pfizer, for example, transformed its innovation program into a corporate strategy to develop new products and increase employee engagement. Now, 80 percent of the company’s 90,000 employees participate in more than 200 innovation projects. The company runs nine award programs, which have built  a knowledge base of more than 1,000 innovation stories and enabled sharing practices across the company.

When all of the pieces are put together, innovation is sustainable for the long term. Companies can introduce new, innovative products, services, processes, and initiatives that move the needle, and ultimately drive revenue to grow the company. There’s just one problem—many organizations believe they are innovating when they’re actually faking it.

5 signs you’re faking innovation.

Most business leaders like to think they’re innovative. But truth be told, they’re flat out faking it. When a company claims to innovate while it’s not, there are telltale signs. Here are five ways to know if your organization is truly being innovative, or just pretending. For more detail on these 5, download the full whitepaper, “Are You Really Innovating? Or Just Faking It?”

  1. Your pipeline is full of safe bets.

Research and development can produce some extraordinary advancements that never make it to a roadmap. But innovation demands they’re delivered to the market on a regular basis. When the mix of your product portfolio is 100 percent predictable and safe, then you’re probably not innovating. Companies that innovate are willing to take calculated risks, fail fast, celebrate those failures, and deliver a well-balanced portfolio with a healthy chunk of ingenuity.

  1. Your company says, “Innovation is everyone’s job.”

When mid-level and executive management cite this phrase—and they often do—what they’re really saying is that it’s no one’s job. For this phrase to ring true, companies must employ the tools that enable employees to share their ideas. Innovation runs like a business with associated revenue and cost savings KPIs. When you’re truly innovative, someone is in charge of it like a Chief Innovation Officer (CINO) empowered with a staff and a mission to generate, incubate, and manage fresh ideas, monitoring them through to delivery/impact.

  1. Your company believes innovation is free.

Innovation is never free. Nor does it develop naturally in your organization. Innovation requires people, processes, technology, funding, strategy, and a plan. Some organizations have innovation labs to research new products, technologies, processes, and markets without the pressure of delivering anything to market.

  1. Your company is more “big hat, no cattle.”

Are you familiar with the phrase that describes cowboys who dress and play the part but have no cattle? All style, no substance. Your company might have someone in charge of innovation with budget and staff, but are they producing innovative products and services? What metrics are being used to measure their success? Measurements require metrics whether it’s new revenues, more customers, or website traffic. The proof on whether or not you’re faking it will be in the numbers.

  1. You have an employee suggestion box in the breakroom.

Yes, these still exist. Some might take on a cute appearance and theme as a treasure box. Others might simply be an isolated cardboard box next to the recycle bin. It’s there that suggestions go to die. An innovative organization has a complete, well-communicated program to capture ideas that solve company and customer challenges. Those ideas are living and breathing, but, most importantly, they are implemented.

What to do next.

If you relate to most of these signs, don’t worry. There’s still time and resources to help you turn the ship around. This means taking a long, hard look at your organization and having some frank conversations about infusing innovation into your company culture with supporting infrastructure and technology.

Planview Spigit can be just that technology for your organization to propel you forward and ensure you’re getting the most out of your innovation program—and that you aren’t faking it altogether. It allows you to deliver on your strategy, from idea to impact. For more information on the five signs you’re faking innovation, download the whitepaper, “Are You Really Innovating? Or Just Faking It?” And if you’re interested in experiencing Spigit for yourself, register for a free demo today and begin the journey to effective and real innovation.

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