Small Innovations
In our technologically driven world, the word innovation is thrown around all too often.

Innovation has become a buzz word that every company with a website or app slaps on their promotions and press releases, but is still striving for, as if there is this tangible item called “innovation”.

Innovation is seen as this holy grail that once you deliver it to market, the money starts rolling in.

Due to the examples of heavily capitalised tech giant we perceive innovation as some algorithm or unique take on a product that people cannot resist and while those innovative ideas take all the news headlines it’s far from the reality of day to day business.

What tech companies like Google & Facebook have learned from spending billions is that you need to create a platform and culture of innovation.

It’s about an ideology that allows your staff to embrace the opportunity and to take the initiative. This is how innovative ideas are born.

The problem with traditional corporate structure is that its rules, protocols and hierarchy make for the antithesis for breeding innovation.

Creating a platform for innovation

Like oil and water, change and hierarchy do not mix. Rigid, vertical cultures often stifle ideas and stunt creativity. On the other hand, innovation requires an embrace of new ideas. It means being in sync with your customers. In contrast, big bureaucracies often have an insular mindset.

A hierarchical “world-view” that might have lost touch with its entrepreneurial roots. Part of the problem is size.

As big companies grow, informal communication “picking up the phone and sorting a problem out,” gives way to vertical silos that control and even horde information.

Being bigger also requires a shift away from personal decisions to being entrenched in procedures. As the web of rules grows the ability to improvise and “think different” withers.

Leaders matter too

As organisations supersize the type of leader they attract, promote and retain changes. Gone are pesky, risk hunting entrepreneur who seeks market-leading change.

Now managers are the flavour, skilled at balancing finite resources, not creating fresh products.

The reason is simple.

  • Corporate managers bring stability and control.
  • They can deliver regular, short-term results.
Why is this so important? Who sits around, the mindsets they bring, determines what kinds of decisions. Radical ideas are rarely made by the timid. Innovation can appear “dangerous” as it injects uncertainty, chaos and be unpredictable.

Leaders in big corporations are more focused on staying the course and maintaining the current trajectory through tried and tested methods than they are about pivoting or starting over completely.

Fostering a culture of innovation

Opening a culture up to uncertainty and robust dialogue begins the process of unwinding rigidities that stifle new ideas. As the velocity of change accelerates, all innovators must challenge their present thinking to have the foresight for future greatness.

In the last instance, innovation without a culture of exploration is a one-legged stilt walker: bound to fall over. A company’s ability to change, innovate and adapt, depends on the leader’s willingness to embrace change and open the minds of others.

The corporate culture often frustrates free and innovative thinkers and provides no outlet for their creativity which is why we often see the migration of high impact staff. In contrast, those who prefer to follow the status quo remain in positions much longer. We can even see this as them being rewarded for not being innovative, which is counter to the longevity and productivity of any business.

Make innovation an innate part of your business

If scale-ups and corporates want to avoid costly disruption by startups or having to quell their impact by expensive acquisitions, then they should look no further than their current staff and organisational structures.

By slowly incorporating and encouraging the right behaviour, you will be able to retain your best staff and have a constant stream of new ideas flowing through the office into meetings and with it increased engagement and cohesion between faculty and departments.

About the Author
Che Kohler is the co-founder of nichemarket, a South African Business Directory and digital marketing agency. He is an avid blogger who specialises in writing about marketing tech and cryptocurrency.