Companies need great innovators to come up with solutions for the future. Many firms have established formal innovation programs to encourage their engineers to come up with new and innovative solutions to their customers' problems. Incentives are often financial and based on number of invention disclosures submitted and intellectual property granted. But what type of mindset does a successful innovator have? What can managers do to stimulate an innovative company culture? What softer factors should organizations consider when designing invention programs? Here are some basic tips on how companies can understand the “innovation mindset” and encourage an innovation driven culture.
Encourage Out-of-the-Box Thinking
An innovator needs to be visionary and have imagination. A true innovator can imagine things that don’t exist yet and envision solutions that will lead to a better world. Managers should encourage their staff to envision the future, think big and contribute to a work environment where new ideas are embraced. A successful innovator has the courage and support from management to share her/his thoughts and ideas with team members, no matter how big or small the ideas are.
Collaboration is Key
Successful innovators collaborate and try new things together with colleagues and co-inventors. Team members that support others’ ideas and are helpful to others are more successful than people that just keep everything to themselves. Management should encourage a “sharing” culture.
Work Hard and Don’t Give Up
Inventors should not be afraid of failure but embrace challenges. A successful innovation culture encourages the teams not to give up but to be determined and work hard. Hard work should be rewarded.
Reflect – What Works and What Doesn’t Work
It is also important to be reflective and evaluate why things are not working but also why they are working. Inventors should get feedback from others on a regular basis. Encourage an environment that is friendly and open for feedback.
Talk to Customers to Validate Ideas
Innovators need to know scientific facts and principles relevant to their work. They need to know how to use technology and tools that allow them to create, test and share their ideas. But innovators also need to understand their users and incorporate the user’s mindset when developing and testing new ideas. Customers are no longer just consumers, they are often co-creators and very active in letting companies know what they want or don’t want. Today’s technology allows for a whole new way of communicating, collaborating and sharing ideas. Understanding the user has never been easier, and managers should encourage innovators to talk to customers often to get input and validate ideas.
The Collaborative Innovation Process
The basic innovation process starts with identifying the goals. What problems need solutions? What are our aligned values as a company? What are we trying to accomplish? What are your specific objectives for R&D and innovation investments, and how will you connect your investments with innovation output?
The next step is to generate ideas, share those ideas and get some feedback. The third step is designing the solutions, and the fourth step is creating the solutions. The new creations are then tested and evaluated. If necessary, the solution is tweaked or redesigned in another iteration.
Each of these steps fills an important part of the company’s success to innovate. And did we mention to share throughout the process…?
Does your company need a culture change to be more innovative? Or are you ready to tackle the competitive global markets in the way you are currently set up?