Can any company become innovative ?

This is the question of the modern time. Everyone is in the will of escaping face-to-face competition while margins getting narrow over time. Innovation sounds very pleasant to the ears of those, who knows about the potential business outcomes when you are innovator. There are also other segments of business owners who try to follow this very fashion word of innovation and imitate by starting some programs within or outside of organization. The truth is: Innovation is a must to have to survive.

Innovation has many definitions. Everyone has his/her own level of differentiation in the market so that to call it innovation. I’d go for a bit simpler one. Innovation is something that you do differently and become a starting point for a new direction/trend in business/market.

I’d categorize innovation initiatives into the several ones, which I have seen around.

1- Innovation for money

Company executives know that has a big monetary target ahead of them. They know that Innovation can be a solution to their problem. They establish initiative and go for it with money in their mind. This will not last long for sure. Since, innovation does not have deadline in delivery as well as no promise for success. That is the point where more than 90% of innovation initiatives fail within the companies.

2- Innovation for being called as “innovator”

If you look around, companies tent to call themselves as “leaders”, “first”, “best” etc. just to differentiate in the minds of prospective customers. Being “Innovative” is also a hype naming popular nowadays. Today, you can put your product in new box with different color and call it innovative. But if you do not make a difference in customer’s life/experience, sorry, but there is not much of the innovation. My position here is that, customers should decide if it is innovation or not. You can call yourself a Spiderman, but, if you cannot climb the walls, there is no value in it. 🙂

3- Innovation with vision to change the world for better

None can be as strong as a person with the vision and true intention of changing world for better. If you think about money, or fame, it will not take longer. Innovation often is very hard if you have in mind, target of getting rich. Since you will start optimizing your activities to make less tries, less mistakes and less costs. Sometimes you have to turn your logical brain off. That is what will differentiate you from others. There are a lot examples of these things if you listen the stories of innovators of the past.

On TedXBaku, 2013 when I made my presentation about being different my main message was on thinking different and being different. Education system kill the innovation since they load our brains with ready interpretation recipes for the information we get from outside. Like – Winter=Cold, Big company = Economy of scale, Apple = Innovation, etc. Our brains then skip the part where we can differentiate.

The core aim of companies is to earn money. It is far more easier for executives to focus on money directly, than through some risk included activities called innovation. Therefore it is attractive to work with the existing “money earning machine” of company rather than to invent new more effective one for the future. Just look at the examples of Agfa Film, or Kodak who made their biggest mistake by focusing on their existing money-earning machine of chemical films.

Unfortunately, people with this vision to change world for better, not always have the money and power to turn the company for this direction. Lets imagine Steve jobs not being on top of the Apple, would the company be as innovative and successful as today? Probably not. Therefore the nasty truth is that, Innovation is real one when it comes from the top. If it comes bottom up, it is easily eaten for lunch. Not much chances and examples so far in the history.

Answer to the main question

Yes. Any company can become an innovative one, but it requires will and discipline while execution. It is the same as keeping diet to lose weight. So many people starting that and so many are failing to keep up with that.

If you company has decided to become Innovative here are the several steps for that.

  1. Make sure that your company really wants to be innovativeand commitment is consistent. On every tier of company this initiative is supported and energized to take part in that.
  2. Make sure thatyour existing money-earning engine still healthy and can generate cash, which you can use for innovation. Innovation is not a short way. It is long way and needs food to grow.
  3. Separate your existing “engine” and the new “innovation” engine you want to build up.If you think that you can become innovative using the same people, same processes and same infrastructure, I’m sorry, but it is probably not going to happen.
  4. Give Authority and Responsibility for the resources to be used for new engine.One of the main mistakes in the companies is that the resource usage is controlled by “main engine” and the new engine cannot get enough air to breath.
  5. Select main directions and make separate team who will work with several initiatives per each of those directions. Statistically, only 4% of Innovation initiatives are successful at the end. Therefore you have to have many of those initiatives so that you increase your chances to win.
  6. Enrich the innovation potential by closely monitoring and pushing initiatives for speed of execution. It is truth that in innovation field it is better to have fast and dirty rather than longer and better. It is ok to develop the initiatives on the way, but main Innovation features should be included in the first, dirty one.
  7. Share news and communicate effectively. Old engine should not bejealous to the new developing engine. They have to be friends. Therefore constant communication on what is happening and what are the prospect opportunities are very critical. People should love the innovation and feel themselves as part of that, even do they can not be directly part of that. You have to share even if you fail, or you stop any of initiatives. Our internal feelings are not supporting to share not positive news, but, failures are critical part of communication, which means that you tried and learned something new.
  8. Celebrate successes as a team. When the new initiative started to bring money, you have to celebrate that together with the company. It was not probably the work of single person or a group. It was a team work.
  9. Assure safe transition of new engine to the company-s money generation engine lists. Never try to integrate in deep the old engine and new engine. Most of the companies that tried that never got successful.

I wish all the best and success in your innovation path.

You can contact me if you have any comments of questions


Imran Baghirov.

%d bloggers like this: