Three giant steps towards a culture of innovation

The ability to innovate is what keeps companies relevant. Firms that don’t innovate, eventually die. For any company to catalyse innovation, it’s essential to foster an environment that allows ideas to germinate, early products to be nurtured and the freedom to fail. In addition, it’s important to allow innovation to move out of walled spaces or specified departments. By creating a belief in every employee that he or she can innovate, the chances of an idea blossoming into a product increase exponentially.

To succeed at innovation, companies need to consider three key incubators as part of their workplace strategy:

• Creating an environment that is collaborative and inclusive.

• Being ‘Zero-Distance’ to your customer.

• Transforming creative output into commercially successful products.

A collaborative and inclusive environment means that every individual is respected for the value they bring to the creative process. No consideration is given to how they look, speak or where they fit in the hierarchy. The more diverse a workplace, more is the likelihood that it will have out-of-the-box thinking brought about by different experiences.

Imagination is the first step towards innovation and diversity increases the ability to imagine. Since innovation works best when ideas snowball, you need superior communication — one that is clear, honest, respectful, and free-flowing. This allows ideas to spread and get improved. It also initiates new threads of thought. In addition to diversity, workplace design is equally important. Ideas come from people meeting in hallways or having a chat late nights on a common problem. The workplace should provide for resources that people can use, including a portion of work time reserved for experimentation without expectation of tangible outcomes.

Understanding future customer needs comes from being close to your customer and anticipating change. It’s important to remember that the future is a continuum — not one big idea, but the next step, the next experience, the next customer need. Developing the ability to find the right problem is being halfway there.

Making money on the creative output is the last stage of the process. While you can be obsessive on creativity and innovation, close to 70% of innovations fail to make money for companies. Hence, it’s important to co-create with your client no matter at what touch point you are called in to innovate, whether to fashion a new user experience or modernise the core or prototype a new digital offering, you can find allied problems worth solving and earn money out of this. The true measure of success of an innovation is in the long term, the revenue one makes.

The cycle of idea generation - idea conversion - idea monetisation can help companies leverage the power of design thinking for both incremental and transformative innovation. The products and business models for the future are often very different from the company’s current portfolio and it takes an honest acceptance that the ideas for the future could be hidden in the workplace of the present. Many companies have missed this for an important reason — they were either too hierarchical, process-driven or plain lethargic to have a culture of innovation, the closeness to customers and the ability to monetise built into everyday work. By embracing trends and new technology while still staying connected to customers and the core foundation, companies can innovate and prepare for the future. And to do that you need the right people working in a creative environment. It is also about building an inclusive work environment where multicultural and diverse teams flourish.

(Richard Lobo is HR Head at Infosys)

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Printable version | Feb 27, 2020 9:56:04 AM |

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