Innovation is Everybody’s business

Innovation is Everybody’s Business – Unboxing Startups

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Innovation is on everyone’s checklists these days. It is probably the most overused/buzzing word in the lexicon of a business executive. Though that may be true, it is still critical to put our best foot forward as we navigate the uncertainties of the 21st Century. With so much talk about automation, we think the one thing that can truly help us be relevant in the marketplace is to be innovative in whatever we do in our personal and professional lives.
Innovation is Everybody’s Business by Robert Tucker is one of the better books we have read on this subject. This book is all about individuals becoming innovative, not just the organizations. But, first, you need to know who you are and where you want to go.

Take an opinion in your firm on whether people feel responsible for innovation in their jobs or their departments, and we will offer an educated guess on the outcome. Those involved in engineering, design, marketing, and product management will feel a strong sense of responsibility to innovate. However, the need or ability to innovate for others in supporting or operations-focused roles will be rated towards the low end of perceived priorities or even capabilities.

It’s time to alter organizational and leadership thinking about the concept of innovation and get more potential leaders and people doing the appropriate things to push out of their transactional modes in search of new ways to create additional value.

6 Suggestions for Jump-Starting an Innovation Focused Culture:

1. Challenge leadership to stand up and own this one.

Leaders at all levels are responsible for fostering an atmosphere or working environment that encourages business strategy planning in all corners of an organization. While there’s no simple formula for building a thriving innovation culture, it starts with the simple but significant leap of faith for leaders to say, “Yes, we want all of our people thinking beyond tasks and looking for problems to solve and new ways to serve their customers better.”

2. Promote situations that jump-start the right thinking.

People don’t innovate on command, so leaders and managers must create situations where typically transaction-focused individuals can step back and look at the bigger picture of their work.  Choose essential but straightforward questions and conduct ideation sessions around the topic, such as:

* What gets in the way of serving our (internal/external) customers?

* What is our working environment that frustrates you?

* What are our customers telling you that they wish we could do for them?

* If you could fix one thing about how we do our work, what would that be?

3. Create an outside-in view. 

Move beyond the functional four walls and invite customers in your value chain to sit down and share their insights, observations, and needs.  An example might be the order-processing group engaging with sales, shipping, and manufacturing to understand better how things flow and where the opportunities are to change and improve.

4. Go beyond the process and promote innovation as a way to compete. 

The most innovative teams I’ve worked around include a few marketing communications groups and professionals who found ways to out-promote, out-maneuver and outperform many better-heeled competitors while operating on a shoestring budget.  The push to innovate, adopt new technologies, and spin traditional activities to shake up the customers was a core part of this organization’s success.

5. Celebrate innovation victories. 

It’s fun and easy to celebrate the blockbuster new products, but the type of innovation we’re describing is much less visible to the outside world. However, people are people, and recognizing that their work makes a difference in someone’s job, or life reinforces positive innovation behaviors. So don’t skimp on the opportunity to celebrate.

6. More work for leadership.  

Once started, the innovation machine needs care and attention.  Your role transitions from getting things going to providing ongoing support and enabling capabilities.  It would be best if you challenged yourself to step up and recognize the need to channel the innovation and let it run on occasion.  And remember, your job is to knock down barriers.


Critics of this proliferation of innovation thinking typically suggest that too much distracts from the business of execution.  And while we will agree that a culture of the “undisciplined pursuit of more,” is a problem,  overall leadership is everyone’s business, and to assure success you need to be on a mission of getting more people focused on solving the right problems for the right customers. Difficult, but not impossible, and well worth the investment in leadership capital.

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