Innovation can separate business from the pack. New ideas become industry changing techniques and create successful and profitable companies.
Your company's ability to pursue innovation relies on your philosophy. As CEO, the attitudes you hold are reflected throughout your business.
When innovation comes to a halt, you should be able to determine the reason for it. Often times, the reason lies in beliefs that block innovation but are mistaken for positive attitudes.
Here are the most common beliefs that might be standing in your way.
Change Happens Instantly
From an outside perspective, innovation often seems to take the form of a major overhaul. One day a company shoots to success, displaying a new technique that completely changes their production output.
The truth is less glamorous – but also significantly easier to accomplish. Change happens most easily when it occurs as a series of small steps. It is known as Kaizen – a Japanese business philosophy that focuses on gradual but continuous change. When implemented over time, these small changes create a successful company culture.
Implementing a big change instantaneously can disrupt workflow, confuse employees, and ultimately fail to get the desired results. But when a change is implemented one day at a time, the process becomes smooth, simple, and effective.
When done this way, improvement is exponential. A 1% change every day can result in a 3780% improvement for the whole year. By taking things one step at a time, you can let real innovation take hold in your business.
Money Is All That Matters
A false assumption that can keep you from success is that your company exists only to make money. Although successful businesses make profits, they also act as a pillar of their community. Your company is the place where your employees work, the service that your customers rely on, and the foundation upon which future ideas will grow.
Institutional perspective is the understanding that your business is more than a business.
The decisions you make as CEO can shape the lives of everyone around you, and the attitude you hold will be mirrored by your entire team. The small changes you make now will become the culture that your organization relies on.
According to the 2013 Culture and Change Management Survey, 84% of respondents believe in the importance of company culture, but less than half believe that their company culture is managed well.
When poor working conditions and high expectations come together, they create an environment where innovation simply cannot thrive.
Ultimately, the culture of your institution matters. Create a positive environment and innovation will happen naturally.
There's No Way to Improve Your Process
Lean manufacturing is a term used to describe efficient and optimized production. Henry Ford's assembly line was an innovation that used the basic principles of kaizen – elimination of wasted time, movement, and variation – to create greater production output than the auto industry had ever seen.
Ford eliminated unnecessary movement by introducing conveyor belts to his assembly line. He didn't just reduce the time required to build a car; he also reduced the amount of effort required from each person working the line.
That freed time and energy resulted in greater output and the success of a brand that's still around to this day.
Similarly, there may be an overhaul in your process that might completely change your company's productivity.
That doesn't mean you should abandon a successful workflow; instead, stay open to suggestions, and keep an eye out for a small change that could make a big difference.
Rules Must Remain
A common barrier to innovation is the belief that rules cannot be broken. Sure, the rules are there for a reason, but that reason might not be relevant in every situation.
If a rule is holding your business back, it might be time to relax it.
The principles of kaizen recommend removing waste at every opportunity. The wrong rules or procedures can encourage overprocessing and become a frustrating waste of time. Likewise, intelligent regulations will speed up your entire process and deliver positive results.
When a rule isn't working for your company, see if you can modify it or throw it out completely. Innovation can't happen if your employees are constantly making time to comply with inefficient and purposeless regulations.
Instead, seek structures and procedures that encourage smooth workflow and respect the culture your company is creating.
There's Only One Right Answer
When you get too caught up in either/or thinking, it's easy to ignore alternative options. Innovation happens when you stay open to new possibilities.
If you accept limitations and false dichotomies, you might miss the choice that will bring you the most success.
This philosophy can be applied by considering “and” instead of “or.”
- Is there a way to save both projects?
- Is there something you can provide that will open up more possibilities?
- Will a small change now make work easier for everyone in the future?
Look to see the ways in which you and your team can act differently. When you consider alternative options, you allow real innovation to happen.
Create a Culture of Innovation Step by Step
The path to an innovative business starts with the belief that change can happen. Set your goal as high as you can and then decide upon small steps that will turn your ideas into reality.
Kaizen is more than a philosophy of gradual change and the elimination of waste. It's the belief that every person in a company, from assembly worker to CEO, can seek to improve and contribute.
When you remove the barriers that stand in the way of innovation, your team will be able to work harder, generate new ideas, and help your company grow to its next stage of success.
As CEO, you provide inspiration and encouragement to everyone who works for your business. The attitudes that create innovation have to start with you.
If you care about your company culture, stay open to new ideas, and implement your changes over time, you will find yourself at the top of a strong and successful organization.
Lisa Michaels is a freelance writer, editor and a striving content marketing consultant from Portland. Being self-employed, she does her best to stay on top of the current trends in business and tech. Feel free to connect with her on Twitter @LisaBMichaels.