You know it’s important to set resources aside for innovation, but you may be wondering how exactly to make that happen for your company. How do you ensure that your organization’s resources are going where they’ll truly enhance the creative process? While every company is different, these simple steps that follow the vital laws of innovation will help.
There are four key resources that are necessary in order to innovate within your company—and time tops the list. If you don't offer your employees the time they need to innovate, you'll be working against yourself. You can further the innovation process within your organization simply by ensuring that your employees can dedicate time to it.
- Set aside time every week for your employees to work on innovations of their choosing. Encourage them to develop projects that interest them, and provide the resources necessary for them to experiment as needed.
- Offer time for collaborative innovation throughout the company as a whole. Designate a few days a month as “idea days” for teams to brainstorm new products and processes.
- Set time aside to discuss the innovation process with the entire company. Explain your priorities and how employees can go about furthering their ideas within the organization. Showcase ideas that people are working on to generate excitement and inspiration among the rest of the team.
Examine the Budget
Innovation cannot occur without money. Money is the foundation of all the changes you want to put into place throughout your organization. Take a hard look at your budget and examine how it has the potential to impact the innovation process throughout the company. Keep in mind that you must have money both for experimentation and for the implementation part of the process: if you don't have the funds to put your company's latest innovation into practice, you will substantially delay its implementation.
Shift Resources and Equipment
What equipment is necessary in order for your employees to make a more effective shift toward innovation? What resources do your employees need most in order to put their innovations into practice? Take the time to think through what employees need most and make that equipment available to them. People need access to things like model shops and manufacturing facilities in order to try out their innovative concepts and theories. They need the software and hardware to effectively manage their creative efforts and make them reality. Access to the supply chain and plenty of consumer data are also critical to the innovation process.
Focus on People
People are at the heart of any successful innovation culture. They are critical to the task of creating, whether coming up with new ideas or implementing unique solutions to problems. The upshot? Like any other resource, they must be managed effectively in order to ensure maximum innovation potential.
Unfortunately, all too often, your best people are kept busy with other tasks—and that means that innovation falls to the wayside or is left in the hands of people who aren't as well suited to it. Instead of leaving innovation to chance or hoping that it will happen in a rare off hour, commit some of the best people within your business to the innovation process. You already know that they're capable of accomplishing incredible things. How much more could they do for your organization and your industry if they were given time to simply pursue innovation?
One of the most effective uses of people is to create an innovation task force made up of your top employees, who meet on a regular basis to discuss the state of innovation within the company. Keep in mind that time is another part of this resource: the more often these individuals are able to meet, ideally on a weekly or biweekly basis, the better they'll be able to encourage and further opportunities for innovation throughout the organization.
Find Your “Sweet Spot”
Every company is going to handle innovation differently. A large company has a huge number of resources to give to research and development. They may be able to create positions that are just for innovation. They can set more time aside during the regular work day to allow for creative efforts. They have huge equipment and materials budgets.
Your company, however, doesn't have to have a huge budget to create big innovations. You just need to find your own sweet spot: the place where shifting resources creates the biggest reward. Consider, for example, Apple, who chose to focus on the products their consumers liked most in order to further the innovation process. They found the products that most needed the funds, manpower, and materials and used the resources for them, abandoning a lot of other ideas in the process.
Don’t take for granted that you need to dedicate a large slice of your tight budget to innovation in general. Take a more surgical approach and target resources to where they’ll do the most good. This may take some trial and error, but it will be worth it when you have a solid idea of your company’s most important areas of innovation.
You don't want your business's success or failure to hinge on your latest innovation. Keep your latest developments separate from other business proposals. Have a plan that allows for both success and failure. No matter how good you think your idea is, there's still a chance that it will fail! Make sure that your existing products still receive the focus they need and always have a backup plan.
Shifting your resources to focus on innovation is a process that will take time. The best way to start is by looking at each of your resources—time, money, equipment, and people—and making a plan to target each of them where they’ll truly further your company’s creative efforts. Recognize that you won’t develop a perfect system for allocation overnight, but over time, you’ll find an ideal balance that allows you to make big changes in your industry.
Want to learn more about increasing innovation in your business? Contact me.