Last week, the New York Times published a great article on innovation in the current (depressing) economic climate. The main point of the article is what we’ve been telling our clients for months: don’t let a shaky economy kill your innovation efforts.
A particularly interesting point in the article focuses on how imporant it is maintain a widespread climate of innovation in your organization.
There are important things managers can do to ensure that creative forward-thinking doesn’t go out the door with each round of layoffs. Fostering a companywide atmosphere of innovation — encouraging everyone to take risks and to think about novel solutions, from receptionists to corner-suite executives — helps ensure that the loss of any particular set of minds needn’t spell trouble for the entire company.
Companies that create silos of innovation by designating one group as the “big thinkers” while making others handle day-to-day concerns risk losing their innovative edge if any of the big thinkers leave the company or ultimately must be laid off.
Rather than halt all innovation efforts and try to ‘wait out the storm,’ why not engage in smaller-scale, innovation-building activities that get your entire organization or team involved in moving forward? While some projects and big ideas may certainly be risky and expensive, innovation as a whole does not have to be. Remember that innovation isn’t just about new products and services; it’s about new internal processes, new revenue streams, and new customer segments as well.
We recently had a discussion about innovation and the U.S. economy with Leigh Jerome, President and CEO of The Institute for Triple Helix Innovation, a government-sponsored thinktank and research institute. Leigh is quick to point out that innovation is critical not only to your organization’s survival, but to the survival of the entire economy as well. “For the US to maintain high levels of economic growth and job creation, we must be a global innovation leader. Innovation matters because it creates new knowledge, products and efficiencies that lead to economic strength and competitiveness.”
Innovation isn’t just good for your organization, it’s good for the economy as well. So as we continue planning for innovation in the rocky year (years?) ahead, we urge you to focus on the future and chart out a course that will allow you to keep innovation alive.