Every company that has ever existed started with someone who had an innovative and entrepreneurial spirit. Even if they did not come up with the original idea or were the first ones to market. Starting a competing venture is essentially saying you think you can do it better, which is an example of an innovative spirit.
The problem is that many companies lose their way. They innovate and revolutionize their way to success. The champagne starts flowing and the victory parties are thrown. Then the fear sets in. The fear of losing what has been created, obtained, and achieved. This puts the leadership team in a defensive position. So instead of following the formula that got them there (throwing caution to the wind and risking it all), they hedge their bets and play it safe. They lose that entrepreneurial / innovative spirit that brought them the original success.
Then an innovative competitor comes along and does the very thing they fear the most. The competitor takes away their customers and their business.
Why companies should always see themselves as innovators
I really believe the old adage is true. The only thing constant is change. If companies can embrace this truth and constantly seek to stay on the cutting edge of their market, I believe they will avoid becoming irrelevant.
How companies can focus on innovation
- Have a dedicated team of energetic and passionate people focused on innovation.
- Find other key people scattered throughout the organization who are passionate about innovation and get them involved in the conversation.
- Provide your change agents the ability to do their job. Change things.
Where can innovation happen?
- Aligned markets. Look for customers who are using your products in ways you had not intended or thought of. Find markets that are close enough to your core competency but different enough so that your organization still needs to stretch.
- The supply chain. Are there products you are consuming that you could make better yourself? Are there services you are outsourcing that could be a new revenue stream for your company?
- Your work flow. Start by mapping out exactly how you get work done. Then get your team together and start identifying areas that could be improved.
In case you need a few more reasons to be innovative
Having an innovative and entrepreneurial spirit is really about being open to better ways of doing things. It’s about exploring new possibilities and being willing to actually adapt and change when you find something of value.
Companies that embrace innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit also strengthen their position. By exploring new markets and potential offerings, they diversify their portfolio. Think of General Electric. The company is so diversified that when one of its divisions begins to falter, another one is there to carry the load.
When you approach business from an innovative mindset you have to be comfortable with failure. You have to understand that failure is part of the deal and something you will experience. If you aren’t so sure this is true, I would challenge you to think of an innovative company that has not experienced some sort of public failure.
Returning to my fist example, GE is currently shutting down its finance division. Google Glass fell flat on its face and the company is currently disassembling its social media service. Yet both these companies continue to persevere and serve as shining examples of diverse product portfolios. Which will be the challenge for any company that sets its sights on being innovative. When failure arises, will you learn from your mistakes? Will you push through and discover those innovative ideas that will revolutionize your industry?
How do you cultivate an innovative spirit in your organization? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!