When we talk about programs, especially an innovation program, it sounds like a task. It seems like you would need a hefty budget, a huge management team, a large employee base, basically, everything large and ample in amount.
This would mean a large organization has everything to be innovative and top of its game. Ironically, it’s the large organizations that face the most hurdles in practicing sustainable innovation.
So, the budget and management team are an integral part of innovation programs, but there are other major factors that ensure successful programs. No matter the size of the company!
Let’s learn a little about what innovation programs aim to achieve first.
Introduction to Business Innovation
Every innovation program aims to either achieve internal or external business transformation. Ultimately, any innovation program aims to create a holistic organizational development and:
- Business Value: Tangible assets, such as new products, services, solutions, strategies, value propositions, and business models.
- Institutional Change: Internal transformation to imbibe innovation culture through new processes, metrics, incentive systems, organizational structures, team dynamics, and employee participation.
Simply put, business innovation refers to a new solution for any business challenge that eventually leads to growth and monetization for an organization.
This solution can be a new product, service, strategy, process, business model, or management plan. It does not necessarily have to be a breakthrough solution that creates a whole new industry for the company but a solution that upgrades positioning, branding, and value proposition.
Related Read: Business Innovation: The What, Why, How, and Where
7 Ways for Creating a Successful Innovation Program
When we start anything new, certain obvious steps are a must:
- Identifying the pain points
- Selecting the correct innovation strategy
- Picking the right idea management software
- Introducing the right innovation management software for the next innovation level
- Bringing top management, middle management, lower management, and every individual in the organization on board
- Setting short-term and long-term goals
- Mapping out a timeline
- Performing a SWOT analysis
- Engaging in market research
These are the so-called technical aspects of building a new program or strategy. Even though they are of utmost importance, they cannot guarantee successful program innovation in any organization.
Beyond the theory of a comprehensive innovation program, the factors discussed below are the real tips that will help your business innovate.
Do you know what is the difference between companies such as Google, Apple, Adobe, or 3M and companies struggling to position themselves?
Their corporate culture!
Almost every company in the top 500 Forbes list understands that innovation is only possible through engaging people, not just technology.
People are often driven by their desire to innovate, work on amazing projects, and practice autonomy over their work. Otherwise, they lose interest, and companies suffer:
- Low Morale
- Misalignment of innovation goals and organizational goals
- Economic distress
- Barely any innovation or new invention
- Stagnant work culture
- Succumbing to rapid market advancements
Therefore, companies that tap into their employees’ innovation potential win.
Smart businesses choose to establish an intrapreneurship culture and reap the benefits of intrapreneurial activities by their employees.
Innovative companies understand the shift from hierarchical culture to intrapreneurship, the demand and need for creativity, agility, and future demands.
Related Read: What are the benefits of an intrapreneurship culture? (With Intrapreneurship Examples)
Evolving Innovation Program Ideas
A company might have innovative products or solutions that are successful and stand strong in an ever-volatile market.
But that doesn’t make the company invincible.
An innovation program has the potential to work in an organization’s favor and bring productive solutions. But every innovation program needs continuous upgrades as well.
Yep! Innovating innovation programs.
And it’s actually really simple to do so. You can make innovation-focused challenges a part of your program or just take employee ideas to understand the latest program requirements.
But whatever you do, don’t take your existing program for granted. The business world is full of company failure stories, who despite having a great product, failed to ride with the tide.
Innovation Programs for Employees
When you ask any business leader about their key priority for their company, the most common answer you would hear is to capture innovation and foster an innovation culture.
However, various studies suggest that the lifespan of even the biggest 500 companies is decreasing significantly.
Quite contrary, isn’t it? How can companies with business leaders focusing on finding and implementing the best innovation program fail?
It’s because most of them end up taking a top-down approach and keep a gated innovation strategy.
You’d be surprised to learn that even the CIOs, whose role in innovation is growing each day, are still left out of the innovation discussion by stakeholders.
There is kind of a one-sided approach to innovation, with only top management given the opportunity to share ideas.
This approach needs to change. Every individual, employee, manager, or leader must be able to contribute to the innovation program and make the practices better.
Innovation Program Examples
Sony’s Startup Accelerator Program (SSAP) is a great example of an innovation program. Sony, which is always associated with innovation, such as Walkman, started SSAP to encourage employee innovation and intrapreneurial spirit within the organization. So far, the program has generated over 750 business ideas, incubated 34 of which 14 businesses have been successful.
Wena, Aromastic, and AeroSense, to name a few of them.
Adobe Kickbox is another innovation program discovery. Adobe’s innovation brainchild is open-sourced to everyone for use and aims to:
- increase innovator effectiveness
- accelerate innovation velocity
- improve innovation outputs
- build valuable skills such as ideation, divergent thinking, and business creation
Be a Leader, not just a Manager
As a leader, your job is to get an innovation program up and running soon and without compromising the quality of the innovation practices. In this race against time, executives often overlook the difference between leadership and management.
They end up controlling their team or individuals in order to achieve innovation.
If there’s one thing that defines innovation, it is creativity. And creativity cannot happen in a gated culture with pressure to innovate.
As they say, when you make something a chore, it becomes unpleasant.
Leaders need to influence, motivate, and enable individuals to take ownership of their contributions to the innovation process.
Instead of asking to think outside the box, they must ensure that employees are given the freedom to innovate and submit their ideas.
Any complicated processes, silos, or blockers should be removed!
Running an innovation program when you need a solution to a specific business challenge is useful but not productive in the long run.
So, when you make an innovation program a consistent part of your business, you get to capture ideas regularly for crucial as well as unexplored aspects of your company.
However, you must ensure that no great idea is lost, no matter the time or day, because ideas can strike anywhere, anytime. It’s not necessarily during the working hours. A consistent innovation program also enables you to swiftly implement ideas that need immediate action.
Companies that only work on short-term innovation programs, maybe once or twice a year, end up preventing great ideas from revealing themselves.
No Judgements, Free Flow
You must discard the idea of titles and emphasize sharing ideas from each individual equally.
Innovators don’t really have a specific degree or title.
Anyone, literally, anyone in your organization can be the person to come up with an invention–big and small. And you need to capture it!
Related Read: How Frito Lay Cheetos were an innovation by a janitor?
A marketing guy can have the idea to add a new functionality to your app. Maybe it was while interacting with the app interface he saw friction and got the idea, or maybe it was just instincts, but it’s your chance to capture and monetize the idea.
However, what if the idea didn’t really fetch the expected results? What then?
As a leader, your reaction towards their effort and your gratefulness towards their quest for innovation and improvement must be loud and clear.
Show employees that you recognize, value, and support their opinions and presence, and half your battle for a successful innovation program is over.
Your innovation program for innovators in your organization should speak volumes with no regard for judgments.
Every organization has a vision that dictates where they want to be in the near future. It can be a 50% higher growth rate or five new product launches a year. So, the difference between where you currently are and where you want to be refers to the innovation capabilities gap.
The good news is that it is completely achievable by making systematic experimentation an integral part of your innovation program.
You must enable employees to run multiple experiments throughout and without limiting them to their titles. In fact, carve out resources for every individual interested in trying out any new project.
Enabling experimentation doesn’t only have external output benefits for an organization, but you see institutional change internally. A culture of intrapreneurship, innovation, and ideation gets incorporated into the very being of your organization.
Anyway, the best way to develop innovation skills and a habit of taking a new approach to challenges is through repeated experimentation. The more your employees engage in sharing their ideas and owning their innovation projects, the more your innovation program is a success.
In a Nutshell
You must start by making value creation only one part of your innovation program and prioritize culture change.
Because if you focus exclusively on developing new solutions, your program is less likely to succeed.
You must enjoy the awesomeness of putting new ideas into the world and leverage the innovation potential of every individual on your team or different verticals across organizations.
Furthermore, the most understated requirement for an innovation program is to create an interconnectedness between every other program strategically. It can be your employee program, training program, or business program.
Expand your focus from technicalities to the soft aspects of a business!