First of all, what is innovation? In the simplest form, innovation is a new technique, method, or device. Since a new idea makes sense only if it is better than the old one, innovation comes with improvements. Why will anyone change his method of doing certain things if he won’t get a better, faster, or more accurate result?
So, innovation can be perceived as a better device, better technique, or even a better application of existing knowledge. To the corporate world, better could mean improved turnaround time or a more cost-effective solution. So, innovation can be defined as more cost-effective and better technologies, services, processes, products, and even business models.
There are two major kinds of innovation – radical and incremental innovation. Radical innovation is the one that has a massive impact on the relevant segment of the market or on the activities of firms in that segment of the market. Radical innovation could revolutionize the market in several aspects. Most times radical innovations raise the bar and also renders the existing term of service or existing products obsolete.
For instance, the emergence of smartphones was a radical innovation. The sales of all existing phones began to plummet. Every phone manufacturer began to join the bandwagon of smartphone production. Right now, smartphones run on either Android or iOS. Nokia that used to be the leader in the sales of mobile phones is now struggling because they did not join the bandwagon early enough and when they did, they wanted their phone to run on another kind of platform. Radical innovation disrupts the market so it is also called disruptive innovation.
On the other hand, incremental innovations are about making an existing product better or upgrading an existing product or service. A very good example of incremental innovation is by reducing the price of the same product. It usually starts with a particular retailer. Drop-in sales will force others to reduce their prices too.
There will be no technological advancement without innovation. So, it is important for people to constantly think about making things better. Every manager or CEO should constantly push his or her employees to think and come up with better ideas all the time. A few ways to foster innovation have been outlined right below. Companies should aim for radical innovation always. It pays much more than incremental innovation which is usually easy to copy.
Any new innovation that works fine should be rewarded. When any of your employees come up with a great innovative idea that works, you should reward him/her/them very well. This will make others put on their thinking cap.
Embrace Research and Development
A lot of companies do not understand the importance of this department so most companies do not have such teams. It is very important for companies to fund this department. This team will be constantly working on innovative ideas. The most successful companies are the ones who have an active research and development department. Even when these companies are on top of their industry, they still find ways to improve and consolidate their lead. When it comes to search engines, Google is clearly the best yet Google continues to improve.
Allow Every Employee to Come Up With an Idea
Innovative ideas do not end with a particular set of people. You can only get the best ideas if you allow everybody to take part. Some of your employees may have a good idea but may not really know how to go about the implementation. The best innovative ideas do not usually come from people you expect to have them.
Give Free Time to Think
It pays to understand that activity is not productivity. Occupying your employees do not always lead to more productivity. A lot of managers make their subordinates work for longer hours and they think they are actually maximizing the pay these employees earn. If you make your employees work from 9am to 5 or 6pm every day, the little time they have left will be used for their personal activities. There will be no time to think and innovate. But when they work less, they have more time for creative thinking.
Create Several Media to Submit Ideas
Some people are too shy to speak in front of several people. Asking people to come up to present their ideas verbally may discourage some employees. There should be other media to do that. There could be a certain email address where suggestions on innovations can be sent to.
Don’t Rebuff Ideas
Even if you think an idea will not work, don’t rebuff it immediately. The proponent of such ideas will feel ashamed and it will discourage others. Instead, thank the employee for his efforts and explain why the idea will not work. Nobody can be completely written off. An employee with a bad idea can still come up with a blockbuster later. Remember, Walt Disney was once fired for lacking creativity.
Anybody who cannot take risks will never move forward in life. So is any organization that does not take risks. However, risks have to be calculated and minimized. You need to make your employees understand that innovation comes with a certain degree of risk. This is why you need to put some of their ideas up for trial runs to see if they will work.
There Should Be an Innovation Contest
Hold a contest regularly where employees will come up with innovative ideas and the best ideas will win a juicy prize. This should be done at least in every quarter of the year. It will motivate your employees to be as creative as possible.