How can your organization stay one step ahead of the competition when it comes to innovation? Here, six of our leaders offer some advice based on what we’re seeing from our clients and our internal efforts.

As industries are disrupted and business models change overnight, everyone is asking the same question: How can I keep up with the evolving business landscape and be a leader instead of a follower when it comes to innovation?

“An accelerating pace of change is the reality. Change is happening faster than ever before,” says Centric Consulting President Larry English. “It’s going to be an exciting time. Business models. Technologies. Ideas. They’re all going to revolutionize almost every industry. You have to be prepared and you have to start addressing it now.”

Riding the Wave of Change

But, how do you address this wave of change? The kind that’s so big you don’t see it coming?

“If you’re going to survive it, you have to start developing a culture of innovation,” Larry added. “And you need to start experimenting.”

Many of our clients are grappling with how to better innovate internally, and they’re asking us to help them. So, we asked members of our team who are part of our own internal efforts to provide some recommendations on steps to take toward innovation.

Here’s what they had to say.

#1 Launch an Innovation Pilot and Experiment First 

Marc Johnson, Centric National Senior Architect, says to start small and start with a pilot. Treat your pilot like an innovation idea or experiment and test it.

“Innovation is all about experimentation. If you spend months and invest a lot of money trying to get your questions answered, you’re probably going to fail more often than not and lose a lot of money. So your pilot, just like your ideas, should start with something very manageable, such as a hypothesis that includes the value you want to add. Then, figure out the cheapest, quickest way to get to that.”

#2 Think of Atypical Solutions for Problems 

Carmen Fontana, Centric’s Cloud and Artificial Intelligence Ldead, innovates by solving problems in new ways.

“When confronted with a problem, I try to map out what the conventional solution would be. Then, I take a deep breath, throw that solution away and challenge myself to think of an atypical answer to the problem at hand. Right now, I’m part of a team exploring if machine learning will help us with recruiting and staffing. Matching people to projects is traditionally done with search queries and spreadsheets – we want to see if it can be done successfully with a completely different methodology.”

#3 Break Your Bias 

Paul Holway, Centric St. Louis’ Technology Leader, says innovation happens when unique approaches are applied to your vision, not from incremental improvements or following trends.

“The biggest innovations come not usually from experts, but by people outside the field unencumbered by bias. With that in mind, be balanced in what you pursue, don’t be afraid to have a broad exposure across interests, and take time to be challenged. Check out the site https://liminalthinking.com for ways to help break your bias and expand the creativity you put toward being innovative.”

#4 Mentor Innovators Through the Experimentation Process 

Jeff Lloyd, National Partner of Strategic Growth & Operations, says once you have some ideas, it’s time to mentor and train the idea generators to pursue it.

“Piece together an informal mentoring network to keep ideas alive and keep them moving. Fertilize the ideas. You want people to take their ideas and test them. You want to push them along until, at some point, they say ‘I think I’ve got something really good here.’ But that won’t happen if the process is too rigid or structured. It won’t happen if people have to put documents together and present their ideas to a committee at an early stage. Taking a mentoring approach helps mature ideas and proactively drive them forward until you have something with merit.”

#5 Let People’s Passion Drive Change

Kevin Sheppard, Shared Services and Centric Coach, says passion – and not rewards – should be the driving force behind new ideas.

“The initial reward for striving to innovate should be about giving people the opportunity to present new ideas and thrive in the workplace. For our consultants, we try to make it clear that coming up with new ideas will count as practice management time as a reward for participating. Longer term, if the idea provides a lot of benefits for the organization and reaps rewards, then you discuss financial incentives. But what we’ve found that works well is to celebrate successes and celebrate failures because it’s an opportunity to learn something and it encourages innovators to keep trying.”

 

In the words of Thomas Friedman, an American journalist, author, and three-time Pulitzer Prize winner:

“Do you know what my favorite renewable fuel is? An ecosystem for innovation.”

In order for organizations to stay relevant and ‘renew’ themselves, they have to adopt a culture of innovation. But, becoming an organization that is good at innovation is not easy. It is a multi-year transformation. Our team encourages all of our clients to begin this journey now and encourage you to do the same.

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