To succeed, companies—especially startups—need to have innovative approaches to solving everyday challenges. But not every company has this skill. To find out what businesses should do to improve upon this, we asked founders from YEC ingredients for innovation most companies are lacking. Their answers are below.
Most companies need to shift somewhat from their original concept in order to take off. But how do you make sure you pivot in the right direction? Having a genuine culture of collaboration can help you define and refine your mission. Input from your entire team—executives and staff—should be solicited, valued, and incorporated into company strategy.
– Heather Schwarz-Lopes, EarlyShares
A healthy culture of innovation requires everyone to readily admit when they are wrong and adopt other viewpoints, especially when the data says so.
It’s crucial to cultivate an environment where employees feel comfortable challenging one another. When two peers go back and forth in an intellectual pursuit, they’re forced to stand their ground and build on their own arguments. These challenges often result in our best innovations because they encourage people to defend their assumptions and elevate their beliefs more than they otherwise would.
Innovation needs to be a priority and for that to happen, you need a catalyst: someone who can inspire others, act as a champion for new ideas, and boost the creative energy in the office. Whether they hold regular brainstorms, one-on-one sessions, or even get the dialogue going via email, someone needs to begin the chain.
Many ideas and projects are short-lived and end up living on the drawing board. A lot of companies encourage innovation, but they don’t actually take the plunge and follow through on the new ideas that come up, so they never get to see how those ideas function in the real world.
In many situations, people tend to want to work with or connect with people who share similar ideas or beliefs. This is bad. The previously described situation is called “group think” and it is very effective in neutralizing innovation. The ingredient you need to add is new ideas or perspectives from someone who doesn’t think the way everyone else does on the team.
True innovation is not a product or idea that’s so extreme it’s considered avant-garde. That sort of excessive creativity will lead to offerings which are “cool” but not consumer-friendly. Knowing the limits of the actual utility of your products and understanding the genuine needs of your customers can help the most innovative companies craft goods that help better society.
Most companies try to innovate within their normal processes and procedures, but there’s often too much baggage within the normal ebb and flow of the workday to truly focus on completing the hard work involved in innovation. To inspire innovation, you need to create space for it to happen and let your team run with it.
So many people have a really cool idea but zero customers to prove the concept. Get some customers who are paying you real money before you spend countless hours building something that nobody wants to pay you for.
While everybody’s heard of Google’s 20 percent “personal projects” policy, few companies put it to practice. Allowing teams to decide and organize their own projects has lots of advantages: It spawns new ideas for the company, reinforces employee’s organizational skills, and maintains high motivation.
Not putting your clients’ interests ahead of your own interests (particularly your own short-term goals and financial interests) can stifle true innovation.
For me, mental freedom is the best way for people to dream big and dream more, which is where innovative ideas come from.
In order to find good ideas, you need to come up with a ton of ideas (both good and bad) and just see what works. But most companies don’t have a way to test small ideas and separate out the good ones: employees are expected to only bring great ideas to the table. However, with a more experimental mindset and testing framework, it’s possible to throw more things at the wall and just see what sticks.
A lot of the time, once you succeed in something you will keep doing the same thing as that process leads to similar results. But you should always try to refine and perfect your processes. By regularly reviewing internal and external processes that work, you can constantly try to refine and find new ways to make sure things are even more effective next time.
What do you consider the most necessary ingredient for innovation? Is there an important aspect we didn’t cover? Tell us in the comments!