Everyone’s talking about innovation. It doesn’t matter what you’re selling or who you’re selling it to, every company wants to be perceived as the innovator in their space. And the tech media is always heralding a new innovative idol, the next visionary that will change the very landscape of their respective industry.
All of this focus on the lone-wolf tech genius has created a perception that innovation “belongs” to a select few, or that only a narrow group is capable of producing truly innovative ideas.
However, I believe that innovation doesn’t truly “belong” to anyone. It shouldn’t be the purview of a dedicated group of “innovators.” Rather, it’s the product of a collaborative environment where everyone in your organization, from the bottom to the top, is encouraged to create and share new ideas for products, services, features or even just internal processes.
Stop Siloing Innovation
You might think that every company has a secluded group somewhere that spends its day trying to come up with the “next big thing,” and maybe some of them do. Full disclosure, PGi does have a dedicated “Innovation Lab,” a lean group that was created in order to have the leeway to operate outside of the traditional bounds of our existing products and business models.
However, in spite of the name, the Innovation Lab wasn’t created as a means of segmenting innovation into a single space. It’s by no means a silo. In fact, the creation the Lab is a reflection of our dedication to creating a culture of innovation across all of PGi. Innovation at PGi can come from any direction at any time. We have feedback loops and internal communications mechanisms in place that allow anyone in any role to submit an idea they have about our products, services or the business at large.
What we’re ultimately trying to avoid is the creation of barriers to collaboration and between groups that hinder, if not prevent outright, the sharing of ideas and work between them. Siloes are innovation’s kryptonite, and they fly in the face of the very idea of pushing boundaries and forging new ideas.
“Doers” and “Thinkers”
Due to traditional roles in business, particularly within larger companies, it’s easy for your employees to become segmented into groups of “doers” and “thinkers.” One group is responsible for cooking up the ideas, while the other is tasked with bringing those ideas to life. This setup creates a philosophy where innovation and ideation are just steps in a process rather the common threads that tie together everything that your organization does.
Let me be clear on something however: none of this is to say that innovation should happen haphazardly. Any idea, whether born from innovation or not, has to be tested against the customer and their unique pain points and needs, regardless of whether the “customer” in this sense is your actual buyers or your internal constituency. But, truly innovative ideas don’t necessarily have to rock the world. Instead, they can simply be a new way of doing things, a faster and more efficient process or a better end result for your customers.
And those ideas can come from anywhere. Make sure you’re setting yourself up to capture them.
For more insights from Boland, visit his monthly column on Entrepreneur.com.