Business Week magazine recently shared a comment made by IBM CEO Samuel J. Palmisano who said: “The way you will thrive in this environment is by innovating—innovating in technologies, innovating in strategies, innovating in business models.”
Innovation is no longer about merely creating new products. It is about reformulating business processes and creating entirely new markets by striving to meet untapped customer needs. As we watch the Internet grow at incredible speed and witness globalization taking place much faster than predicted, new ideas are inevitably emerging in every industry at breakneck speeds. Today, the real challenge is in the selection and execution of the right ideas, bringing them to market and doing so before your competition does.
Twenty years ago, innovation focused on technology and the control of quality and cost. Business Week says that “today it’s about taking corporate organizations built for efficiency and rewiring them for creativity and growth.” What’s really exciting is the fact that innovation doesn’t have to have anything to do with technology, which means we should be tapping the potential of every member of the organization in search of creative ideas.
Here are a few key facts to keep in mind when pursuing a creative/innovative culture:
Many times an accident has led to tremendous success. Be aware, re-evaluate, re-frame.
- The friction match was invented in 1926 by John Walker, a chemist in England. The discovery was accidental. Walker was actually trying to produce a readily combustible material for fowling-pieces. His first match was a stick which he had been using to stir a mixture of potash and antimony. When he scraped it again on the stone floor to remove the blob on the end, it burst into flame.
- In 1926, a man named Epperson left his glass of lemonade on a cold windowsill. When he returned, the liquid was frozen with the spoon stuck in the middle. After he ran water on the glass, the ice came out with the spoon still frozen in the center. Epperson named his discovery the “epsicle.” The name was later changed to “popsicle.”
Innovation can result from necessity. Consider its long-term possibilities.
- The “huddle” in football was formed because of a deaf football player who used sign language to communicate and his team didn’t want the opposition to see the signals he used and in turn huddled around him.
Consider additional uses of current everyday resources.
- Coffee was used for centuries as a medicine. It was only in the 16th century that it began to be drunk socially in Arabia and Persia.
Be open to modifications, unexpected opportunities, or additional uses other than initially planned.
- Jeans were originally made in 1850 by Levi Strauss, a Bavarian immigrant to the U.S. He originally intended to use his cloth for tents and wagon coverings. However, a miner who complained that ordinary trousers quickly became frayed and tattered on the diggings gave Strauss the idea of making hard-wearing work trousers.
Innovation can and will occur in a wide variety of ways if you’ve created a culture of encouragement and support for creative thinking. Great ideas can and do come from every level of the organization when such a culture does exist. What was once considered a nicety is today a necessity. Are you sending that message to your staff?