Innovation is no longer a strategic alternative; it is a strategic necessity. History shows that companies that are more innovative deliver greater growth and profits. The Covid-19 pandemic has only raised the stakes for businesses. Innovation will be critical to the ability of any company to grow revenues during and beyond the upcoming recession.

Yet, most companies are still not innovation-proficient In a recent survey of CEOs, 80% said that while innovation was a top-three priority their company, only 30% said their organisations were good at it. This picture seems to have changed little over the past two decades or more.

So, how do companies raise their innovation game?

Many of the business leaders I talk to tell me that they want better, more innovative ideas. Others speak of the need for a more innovative culture across their organisation.

But few, if any, mention what really makes the difference between the most innovative companies and the rest: the presence, development and operation of a systematic approach to innovation.

Innovation cannot exist in a vacuum. It can only come to life and thrive if there is an ecosystem that encourages, enables and rewards innovation. Top-down leadership and a clear vision are part of that ecosystem, but on their own they are insufficient. The innovation ecosystem also needs:

  • Innovation to be at the heart of your decision-making;
  • Clarity on your innovation priorities;
  • An innovation process that is understood by everyone across your business:
  • Access to a wide variety of stimuli, covering customer insights, the latest technologies and different creativity techniques
  • Wide involvement and engagement with encouragement and support for your people to take ownership for innovation development (rather than trying to control results too early);
  • An ability to rapidly develop and test new ideas and prototypes;
  • The capability to turn winning ideas into sustainable businesses with scale.

In other words, innovation is not just about how part of your organisation works, it is all about how your entire business is organised and how it operates day-in, day-out.

So if, like most other CEOs, you want to step-change your company’s innovation performance, why not review this list, assess your performance on each of the factors and identify your priorities for development and action?

© Stuart Cross, 2020. All rights reserved.