“Innovation” at its very heart, is the process of creating lasting value while making the journey an enjoyable one. In today’s world, its become the mantra of growth and success and in many cases, survival. If you are a business person, you need a culture of innovation. If you are a technologist, you can’t stop innovating. If you are a human (and not yet a trans-human), you will be required to innovate.
The future is closer than you think
Circa 2015 – If you are a car company, brace yourself to sell lesser cars because autonomous cars combined with cheaper alternate fuels is disrupting your industry.
Circa 2020 – If you are <fill in the blank with your industry>, you are going to sell lesser <your product or service> and be disrupted by <a shared economy, technological improvement, a new start up (take your pick)>.
And the future is unknown, unpredictable and unlike anything you have ever imagined. Ray Kurzweil, the technology trends predictor, is pretty articulate when he talks about the technological singularity not far away. When the technological growth converges, it can have drastic, significant changes to the way we live. And this future requires companies and its leaders to forecast, and be constantly prepared because what actually happens when it comes about is still very much unknown.
You don’t know where your next mojo comes from
Speaking of cars, Ford has rethought the way cities would work in the near future. From being a car company, they have moved into the way cities work. They have rethought the purpose of Ford and its relevance in the global age. Apple sells more phones than computers today. Facebook is betting big on the social VR. An innovation culture lives and breathes predicting the future and imagining the impossible. Its essentially “envisioning a world before it happens”. And your next mojo can be lying anywhere between starting a new service in banking and preparing food for people in Mars.
Your culture determines your business results
Culture can be defined as the behaviors and values that managers and employees display in their organisation. Peter Drucker famously said “Culture eats Strategy for lunch”. Recent study showed ample proof that culture indeed eats strategy for lunch, dinner and breakfast. Their study that assessed several car dealerships categorically pointed out that “the overall culture and engagement of a dealership would be a stronger predictor of subsequent performance rather than vice versa.”
Jim Collins’ authoritative book “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t” establishes the relationship between motivated people and the organisation’s success. Collins here refers to an organization in which each manager and staff member is driven by an unrelenting inner sense of determination. Here each individual functions as an entrepreneur, with a deeply rooted personal investment in both their own work and the company’s success, in other words, companies that encourage an Innovation culture.
You will be forced to by the people that matter
Ford recently announced Jim Hackett as their new CEO. He was instrumental in inculcating Design Thinking within Steelcase, the company he led before. Infosys CEO, Vishal Sikka, has been championing the cause of Design Thinking for a couple of years and getting as many of his leaders trained in the design thinking concepts. As is Indra Nooyi of Pepsi.
And DBS has a completely new take on CEO being a Chief Ecosystem Officer. Companies like DBS understand the need to think in terms of Ecosystems and the need to bring in new thinkers to this role. This is not just in the case of the CEO but all across the C Suite. Coke recently dissolved the role of a CMO and replaced it with Chief Growth Officer. All these changes are geared towards making the companies that much more effective in the new world. And it is predicted that many more companies will follow suit.
If you are in any company in any position, you will do well to champion the cause of innovation. It’s your best chance at leadership, creating an impact and probably even survival.
To maximise an organization’s potential
Millennials are swarming the workplace. By 2025, it is estimated that 75% of the global workforce is going to be Millennials. They think and act differently and value different things. They are brought up in digital lifestyles. They are more global in their outlook and display a stronger sense of community than the previous generations. A culture of innovation is at its core based on empathy and lends naturally to understanding its inhabitants and looking at their motivations.
Another essential aspect of an Innovation culture is the idea of iteration. While we battle an uncertain future trying to find our next mojo, the process of innovation enables spotting of rewarding opportunities and trying them out before we take it live. And when they do prove themselves, you need a motivated employee force to make the most of it.
While there are many reasons on the need for you to encourage corporate innovation, there is one that stands out.
For most part of the day, you are locked up in your organisation. What do you want that place to be? A place that’s forward looking, energetic and offers an outlet to your potential or a place that is going to be soon engulfed in uncertainty and self doubt? You have a choice to make and the power to make a significant difference.