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M. A. Rosanoff: "Mr. Edison, please tell me what laboratory rules you want me to observe."
Thomas Edison: "There ain't no rules around here. We're trying to accomplish somep'n!"
Motion pictures, rechargeable batteries, electric lighting. Thomas Edison and his research team managed to make a huge impact in the world. How exactly? By prioritizing innovation.
Luckily, organizations don’t need to create a modern equivalent of something as pivotal as the incandescent lightbulb to make a positive impact. Innovation can take place in any industry and is present any time there’s a new improvement to a product, service, process, or strategy. When innovation occurs, positive impact is inevitable.
Organizations often focus on initiatives and strategies that lead to innovation, such as strengthening leadership skills and promoting diversity of thought. But it's only when innovation is approached as a goal rather than a perk or side-effect that organizations can tap into their full creative potential and fulfill on ambitious mission statements that make big improvements to “the status quo.” And when it comes to business, who doesn’t want to do it “better?”
Innovation provides an answer to some common and crucial questions:
• How can we keep up with or exceed our competition?
• How can we attract, retain, and engage employees?
• How can we provide the very best products or services to our clients?
• How can we use technology to improve our processes?
• How can we find our way out of a company crisis?
• How can we promote company sustainability and longevity?
The solution is innovation.
So why exactly should organizations prioritize innovation? What are the tangible results?
1. More engagement
Nothing makes talented people run for the hills more quickly than stagnation, innovation's opposite. Employees want the opportunity to step off the proverbial hamster wheel and dive into their own creative potential. A Krueger & Killham study published by Gallup found that 59% of engaged employees say that their job ‘brings out their most creative ideas.’ Of the surveyed employees who were disengaged, only 3% said the same thing. When leadership communicates innovation as a goal or intention, it gives employees the opportunity to focus their strengths on making improvements and creating better ways of doing things.
2. More growth
An important question for all organizations to ask is, “why do we do what we do?” The answer is often to “improve” a product or service and find “better” ways to serve others. Naturally, improvements will lead to growth—better products and services drive more sales. Innovation has the power to promote growth both in profit and recruiting efforts by meeting employee and client needs as they arise, and it’s important for leaders to recognize when the old way of doing things isn’t keeping up with demand. The ability to adapt to these evolving needs is a key factor in company longevity, and prioritizing innovation is the best way to keep up.
Additionally, recruiting efforts receive a quality boost when innovation is prioritized—talented, forward-thinking people who value innovative ideas will want to be part of the effort.
3. More purpose
Innovation requires creativity, breaking through bias, and bringing “the whole person” to the table. It requires abandoning the status quo and the “just get it done and go home” way of thinking about work. It requires an understanding of the big picture and the why behind what we do. Innovation requires us to consider the footprints we’re making and what we’re leaving in our wake. In a Forbes article titled “Why Purpose-Driven Innovation Trumps All,” contributor George Bradt wrote, “Innovation that sticks is purpose-driven—led by someone on a mission to do good for others…what matters is that the innovator is committed to a cause and is compelled to innovate to overcome a barrier keeping people from realizing their purpose.”
Ask yourself: what is your organization’s purpose? How can new improvements and new ways of operating better fulfill this purpose?
Organizations that fail to prioritize innovation will eventually fall behind organizations that do. If innovation isn’t a priority in your organization, have a fierce conversation to involve leadership in making it a collective goal.