Innovation is a hot topic among business professionals, organizational leaders, and other industry players. The exponential advancements being made in technology are leading to faster innovations being made across every field of science and technology. Tesla’s electric car battery, for instance, is a great example of an organization willing to promote industry innovation. By releasing the patents on their electric car battery, and their other patents, Tesla is effectively promoting innovation in the way of electric vehicle technology on an industry-wide-basis. There are countless other examples of modern innovations being made each and every year.
However, not every business is making innovative strides every other month. More companies are on a slower growth path, and are looking for ways to continually encourage and promote innovation throughout their teams. Effective innovation can be incremental, and happen on a micro-level, leading to monumental changes. Organizations that recognize the importance of encouraging regular innovation find that their employees are more often engaged with and committed to their work.
“Innovating, even on a small scale but on a very regular basis, sets people and businesses apart from their competition. Employees that have the opportunity to innovate even tend to be more engaged workers and committed to their company’s mission.”
– Dr. Nisha Cooch, Independent Consultant –
Looking at Historic Performance
If you’re wondering whether or not your team is innovating at a normal pace, there are a few things you can look at to get an idea of where they should be. First of all, you’ll want to take a look at the historic performance of the team, and make note of when the last major, or even minor, innovations took place. While you’re making this evaluation, you can also take note of the everyday levels of efficiency and productivity.
If there are any significant changes between the historic performance data and how the team is performing now, you should look into any events that occurred around the time the major change happened. This applies even in the case of an uptick in productivity, efficiency, and innovation too. If your team is suddenly performing at a much higher level than they used to, you’ll want to understand what’s driving that increase in performance. This can help you replicate similar levels of success in the future by implementing the same strategies surrounding this period of peak performance. However, if there’s no significant change noticeable between historic performance data and current performance data in these categories, then the team’s efficiency with innovation simply may not be the culprit.
“As an organizational manager, it’s really easy to start pointing fingers and blaming team members for a lack of efficiency. However, it’s often more effective to look at the context and environment in which they’re operating. It’s a leader’s job to set people up for success.”
– Melanie Bedwell, E-commerce Manager, OLIPOP –
Keeping Current With Market Competition
Another good place to look for a performance indicator is outside of the company itself. Conduct some research on the competition and try to compare your teams to the teams of other organizations. In this way, you’ll be able to get a sense of how you’re faring in the actual marketplace. Tesla is a good example here again, by releasing their patents to the competition, they’ve still remained industry leaders by staying ahead of the curve and continually innovating.
Depending on the field you’re in, innovations may not be that commonplace, and it could take some time until the next major innovation arrives in the industry. As such, having an understanding how you rank compared to your main competitors should give you insight into the pace of your team’s innovations.
“We always want to look at the market for a performance indicator. I mean if we take a loss of 10% overall, that sucks of course, but if the industry took an average loss of 25%, well then we didn’t do terribly in comparison.”
– John Jacob, CEO, Hoist –
Identifying the Root of Inefficiency
One of the main criticisms of western medicine is that it aims to treat the symptom, and not the root cause. When managers and organizational leaders start to worry about the pace of team innovation, efficiency, and productivity, this stress is likely coming from an external pressure in one form or another.
However, if a team is truly starting to experience inefficiencies, there’s likely a lot more context that comes into play than if they simply got lazy and aren’t doing their jobs anymore. If you’re starting to notice large inefficiencies within a team or specific department of an organization, it’ll benefit you to dig deeper than the surface level, and to actually identify the root cause of the inefficiencies. Oftentimes, these inefficiencies are caused by hindering and redundant processes implemented by management. Other times, an event in the industry can cause field-wide interruptions.
Understanding the root cause of the problem will give you a much better chance at solving the issues permanently and returning to the expected levels of efficiency.
“If any of my teams are experiencing serious issues, I want to know about it and I want to get to the bottom of it. I trust my people, and they trust me. So if something’s going on, we just have to communicate. It’s as simple as that. It’s amazing how many problems are solved through communication.
– Chris Bridges, CEO, VITAL –
Empowering Teams to Innovate
When it comes to innovation, it should never all be on the team members themselves. It is well established that individuals respond to the working environment in which they’re immersed. As such, it’s incredibly important for organizations who want regular innovation to occur, to facilitate, promote, and encourage regular innovative thinking.
“At least once a week our teams break out into small group sessions and just reflect on any process improvements that they can think of. Then they’ll try any suggestions they agree on, and have some data to evaluate at the following meeting. It helps our people think outside the box, that’s for sure.”
– Karim Hachem, VP of eCommerce, La Blanca –
Treat the Cause not the Symptom
When it comes to fixing inefficiencies and promoting innovation within your organization, it’s integral to identify the root cause, rather than putting your energy and focus on easing the symptom. This will help establish regular innovation as a practice moving forward.