Thursday, February 20, 2014


Frost & Sullivan, Innovation in New Product Development eBulletin, Vol. 6 Issue 3
3 Things Every Company Needs for Successful Innovation

  By Sam Narisi
  Managing Editor, eBulletins
  Frost & Sullivan

A few weeks ago, the top innovation experts and thought leaders gathered in New Orleans for the 8th Annual Innovation in New Product Development and Marketing: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange.

While many different ideas emerged from the expertise shared by presenters and participants, one common theme ran throughout the event: For successful, sustainable innovation, companies need skilled innovators on staff, as well as leaders who understand how to encourage creativity and get the most out of those people.

When it comes to building a team of innovators, here are some of the common elements every company needs, according to the experts in New Orleans:

1. The Right Employees

Successful innovators must be creative enough to come up with ideas, and also have the skills needed to turn those ideas into practical plans. Innovation starts with chaos, but the right people will bring it to order, said Delony Langer-Anderson of 3M Consumer Healthcare during one session.

She listed some key qualities those people typically have in common:
  • They have a strong ego
  • They take risks others won’t
  • They have good communication skills
  • They’re fed by the drive to discover
  • They thrive when working on a wide variety of tasks
  • They feel that work should be enjoyable, and
  • They see possibilities not only in the present but in the future.
2. The Right Culture

While it’s important to look for those qualities when hiring, companies don’t always have to go outside to add those skills to their teams, said Dell’s Jim Stikeleather during his keynote presentation. He believes that organizations can train innovation and create environments that encourage employees to be more creative.

That requires the company to communicate its innovation goals and stress the fact that innovating is everyone’s job. However, most employees don’t have that understanding, said Robert Boland of Johnson & Johnson as he led an interactive session. Management can fix that by giving employees a framework for what kind of ideas the company is looking for and guidance on what makes an idea a good one.

Companies can also give employees incentives to come up with ideas and collaborate on those submitted by their co-workers, Boland said. At Johnson & Johnson, employees receive points which can be accumulated and redeemed for a donation to a charity of their choice. The ongoing nature helps ensure continuous participation, Boland explained.

3. The Right Leadership

The goal is to create a culture in which people are thinking and talking about innovation all the time. And as with any major cultural change, it must start at the top, Stikeleather said. Leaders must convey the right attitude in order to empower employees and encourage innovation.

When working toward innovation, the leader’s role shifts from being a manager to being more of a mentor and participant. Leaders must be actively engaged in the process to help employees ask the right questions and stay on the right track.

Some of the keys for managers to keep in mind, according to Langer-Anderson:
  • Use powerful and emotive adjectives
  • Encourage thinking about the big picture
  • Give continual updates so the team knows it’s making progress
  • Encourage creative innovation
  • Allow for negotiation and disagreement
  • Acknowledge and recognize flashes of creative brilliance, and
  • Allow for mistakes and don’t penalize failure.
With the right combination of people, culture, and leadership, organizations can create the environment necessary to continuously generate and implement new ideas that add real value for the company and its customers.

These are just a few of the best practices companies can follow to create their own successful innovation programs. For more, be sure to read Frost & Sullivan’s Executive MindXchange Chronicles, which compile all of the key take-aways and critical action items discussed at the 8th Annual Innovation in New Product Development & Marketing: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange.

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