The title of this article could have included "Innovate or Die," but I am an optimist. With the economy's downturn and its slow recovery, companies need to look at their core products and think beyond them.
Last October, I attended an Entrepreneurial Partnerships Innovation Conference (EPIC) in New York City's financial district. This was the first EPIC conference held in the United States and will be an annual event. The conference was staged in a small setting with a maximum of 75 participants each day for three days. Attendees and participants included representatives from Intuit, NASA, Bombardier, Shell, Pfizer, and BITKOO, and consisted of attorneys, venture capitalists, consultants and other professionals. The presentations were insightful and the tweeting was non-stop in the room.
As I sat, listened and, later, conversed during breaks, I became energized by the possibilities for innovation that were being shared. Yes, one might expect innovation from NASA, but it was the volume of innovation that was amazing. Expressed as an imperative to operating today, innovation is not an extra-curricular agenda item at many of these companies. People were talking about:
- Think tanks within their companies
- Rewards for innovation
- Thinking "outside of the box"
Recently, Harvey Coover passed away. For those of you who didn't know Harvey, he worked in aerodynamics. Many of us have used one of his innovations before: Super Glue. Harvey didn't expect to create Super Glue. It happened while he was trying to create an adhesive for airplanes. The glue he created stuck to everything. And today, Super Glue is a household name. Often, innovation is by accident. Individuals inside organizations are working on a project and, from their work, a new product is born.
Imagine that a culture of innovation was encouraged to increase new possibilities at your place of work. How could being innovative help your company survive and thrive?
Here are six ways to create an innovation culture:
- Create an environment for innovation and solicit ideas. Let employees know ideas are welcome and important to your organization.
- Be a catalyst, teach others and allow for opportunities to have fun. Have employees come together for opportunities to play with creative expression in mind.
- Develop a framework for innovation that will help your company thrive. Make innovation part of your strategy.
- Build innovation teams and collaborate with others. Open innovation involving internal and external partners can propel your ideas forward.
- Gather innovation stories and share news of innovation. Positive results reinforce innovative behavior.
- Reward and recognize achievements and acknowledge efforts (have comfort with failure).
Innovation is critical for all businesses - small, medium and large. Two resources I enjoy and recommend are TED.com and the Front End of Innovation on LinkedIn. These sites can keep you in the right mindset to start innovating today!