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Enterprises today are continually trying to optimize operational efficiency and profitability. This makes sense; these aspects of performance can make or break an organization’s survival in a competitive industry.
But there’s a difference between optimizing and innovating.
Companies can improve performance while sticking with the status quo. Innovating is a different beast altogether, one capable of fueling growth and change.
So, what types of things do innovative companies do differently?
Here are four areas to consider.
Innovative Companies Hire Change Makers
The first factor that sets the tone for innovation (or a lack thereof) occurs during hiring.
Here’s how one author describes change makers: Someone who “helps turn ideas scribbled on the backs of napkins into real-world results through critical thinking and action.”
This is a much different mindset than someone who focuses on hitting pre-defined targets. You could argue a well-rounded business needs both — some people to push the envelope and others to uphold business as usual.
Changemakers are, above all, open-minded. Instead of saying, “That’s not how we usually do things,” they’re more apt to think, “We could try this new approach.”
Hiring change-makers in key leadership roles makes a significant impact on the level of innovation an organization can achieve.
Define and Measure Innovation
It’s important to define innovation, then decide which metrics you’re going to use to measure it. Of course, this isn’t as straightforward as tracking sales or revenue. But it’s possible to get a rough idea of the return on investment (ROI) you’re getting as a direct result of innovation.
The primary way to calculate ROI of innovation is to measure inputs (time, money, and effort) vs. outputs (tangible results attributable to change).
Innovative Companies Infuse Business Intelligence (BI) with Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Innovative companies are going beyond using business intelligence to answer questions for employees. They’re using AI to uncover answers to questions that haven’t been asked yet. Having AI data analytics tools to automatically detect trends, outliers, and relationships between data points fuels data-driven decision making, which is the cornerstone of innovation.
Another advantage of utilizing AI-driven analytics from a provider like ThoughtSpot is the ability to analyze billions of data rows in seconds. When you compare this with the number of hours it would take human analysts to deep dive into this amount of data, you can see how these insights go hand-in-hand with the ability to make timely, innovative decisions.
Create an Innovative Culture
Many organizations are still finding it difficult to forge and foster an innovative company culture. This challenge persists, even though 63 percent of companies are hiring chief innovation officers, and 90 percent are utilizing new technologies to drive innovation. This disconnect demonstrates setting an intention to innovate and deploying the right tools are only the beginning.
Make sure actions are aligning with words. If leadership conveys, it wants employees to innovate and think outside the box, consider the reaction employees are receiving when they do suggest new ideas or modify processes.
Here are a few questions that may help you evaluate your company culture regarding innovation:
- Are employee workflows conducive to trying new things and brainstorming?
- Do people at every level of the company feel comfortable asking “why” questions and making suggestions?
- Are new ideas dismissed, misused, or reprimanded?
- Is failure regarded as a good sign because it demonstrates a company’s commitment to striving?
- Are employees empowered to keep exploring intentional and unintentional innovation?
Fostering a culture ripe for invention means talking the talk and walking the walk. Innovative companies make this concept measurable, hire intentionally, use data to drive decision-making, and build a progressive culture.
Krystle Cook – the creator of Home Jobs by MOM – put her psychology degree on a shelf and dived into a pile of diapers and dishes instead. She is a wife and mother to two rambunctious boys, sweating it out in her Texas hometown. She loves cooking, DIY home projects, and family fun activities.