Photo by: Daniel Foster (Spirit of Innovation)

Innovation at companies

Innovation is a core characteristic of successful companies. That’s an establish idea by now — though the definition of what innovation means may vary.

In my experience, it’s also something that most companies take pride in supporting, and might include in a business plan or as a company value.

Nevertheless it seems not a lot of companies manage to actually innovate. This got me thinking, and writing, about why this is.

I believe innovation is crucial in all companies with a plan for long-lasting business — regardless of its sector.

For some companies the end might seem far away — even if it doesn't adhere to innovation. But even so, there’s no question that those companies will be replaced by others that do invoke innovation in their business.

So, why is it that companies fail in innovating? And by failing I mean that they barely even succeed in trying to innovate — not that their initiatives fail.

I'm certainly no expert on the topic but I believe that the big culprit is that the company does not understand (or won't adapt to the matter) that innovation is a somewhat random and unpredictable element of business. For example, innovation can’t be centrally planned or sidelined into just one department; innovation needs to be the goal of the whole company.

The company need to have an underlying belief in it’s people, and that everyone is capable of innovation — not just specific departments. Leaders in the organisation need to see that good ideas (for the company) can come from anyone. This mindset leads to a company-wide culture, where everyone is always on the lookout for the “next big thing”.

When the unexpected happens, a clever company or entrepreneur will exploit it.

It’s easy to talk about innovation, but the topic has an enormous depth. Peter Drucker’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship is a good book to read if you'd like to explore that depth. It'll also give you an idea of how to look out for events that offer the impetus for innovation.