Why companies are often unable to sustain innovation

Organizations often begin the innovation process by selecting top innovators to lead it - the "build it and they will come" strategy. Putting innovators at high levels helps demonstrate your commitment to innovation but it is not enough to sustain an embedded innovation program. Innovation must be a part of the business model and its mission must span the entire organization if it is to be a long-term competency.

There are several paths toward sustaining innovation: Communication, acceptance of failure, and celebrating short-term wins. Taken together these paths help strengthen your organization's ability to manage change.

Organizations that have trouble sustaining growth are sometimes managed by leaders who may not focus on building others’ skills. They often ask the question, “Why assign innovation to others who aren’t as good at it?” A challenge for leaders who master a particular skill is passing and building that skill in others. If they don’t, they create a huge barrier to achieving long-lasting innovation capability.

When employees feel comfortable, they will try new things. Successful innovation leaders help employees understand how their input is beneficial to the company and urge them to step out of their comfort zone. They work hard to build and maintain trust with employees.

“Failure is no longer something to be avoided and criticized, it is something that can propel a company to future greatness,” says Dominic Basulto, a digital thinker at Bond Strategy and Influence.

Innovation requires a mindset that rejects the fear of failure and replaces it with the joy of experimental learning. Failing fast and failing often gives organizations the ability to turn small-scale mistakes into future creativity.

When organizations switch from conversations about “What do we need to sell?” to “How can we improve our innovation process?” more productive ideas are communicated. The leaders that constantly and transparently convey how participants’ ideas will benefit the organization will increase relevancy for their employees, which in tern makes them more willing to make meaningful contributions.

Another way to increase transparency is by defining what success looks like and then working backwards. Defining goals early helps align every stage of the innovation process toward a measurable outcome. Establishing models for the kinds of ideas executives are looking for will ensure a better quality of ideas overall.

Not only is it important to keep an eye on long-term goals, but organizations should also celebrate short-term wins. Because technology changes rapidly, anyone can invent the next big disruptive innovation at any time. It is up to you to keep the ball rolling. Develop short-term goals that can be achieved quickly and accompany them with a long-term views to solve larger problems.

If innovation is going to play a strategic role in your business, it helps to get everyone involved in a transparent process of positive change.

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