The definition is straightforward and, at the same time, extremely complex: according to the dictionary, to innovate is “to change things by introducing something new.” However, to achieve true innovation and incorporate it into an organization’s DNA, it is essential to understand what it is, how it is encouraged, and what challenges it imposes on us.
Let us debunk a myth: innovation does not necessarily involve technology. From modifying how a job is performed to introducing a methodology to accommodate resources, to rethinking the communication model with a team of collaborators, to launching a new product or creating a new experience for customers, each area of the organization, each task force and each individual has the opportunity to introduce or become an agent of change or to implement an improvement.
Anyone can be innovative, regardless of their training or position. It is key to innovate. Those unwilling to do so will have serious difficulties remaining or reinserting themselves in a fast-changing labor market.
Can we all innovate?
Here the philosophical question arises: Can anyone innovate? Maybe. On the one hand, every employee can do so. On the other hand, it is necessary to stimulate and enhance their innovative capabilities. Some people are innately creative. They are curious, inventive, restless, ready to experiment, and are not afraid of failure. For this category of people, mistakes are essential in their learning curve.
The second big question is: Is any innovation valuable? While the culture of innovation in itself is essential, initiatives that create value for the business will stand out within an organization.
Every organization can foster a culture of innovation, create the right environment and provide the tools for naturally innovative people to unleash their potential, and support those who need additional help.
No fear of failure
Certainty is the enemy of innovation. The change of mindset is a necessary step. An organization must give its teams time to think, propose and try out different alternatives, even when the probability of success at the end of the initiative is uncertain. If this trial-and-error process is seen as a waste of time or as a drop in productivity, then innovation will never happen within that organization.
Unfortunately, penalizing failure is still very frequent. Who would be willing to take a risk if they know that at the end of the road they will be “punished” if the results do not go their way? What if, instead of that, we started rewarding those who dare try something new, and those who think outside the box?
These practical aspects, in turn, must be combined with a battery of additional tools: courses, lectures, workshops, internships, and creativity or neuroscience workshops.
There is no innovation button
At the forefront of all this, a new role is gaining more and more importance: the CIO (where”I” in this case stands for “innovation”). The CIO is responsible for enabling transformation in all areas while ensuring that innovation is aligned with the business purpose.
Indeed, no switch on the wall can be flipped to make the organization adopt a culture of innovation magically. It is a task that requires patience, perseverance, consistency, support from top management and a strategic vision.
New generations are interested in participating in cutting-edge projects that enable lasting change in society. Organizations that promote innovation obtain an additional benefit: they attract talent. Companies that choose the opposite path have nothing to worry about in the long term. There will be no place for them in the near business future.