July 16 by Miguel Tam

As the business tectonics continue to shift into an era dominated by digital, social, and cloud technologies, the discussion around innovation is evolving.

Innovation is not by any stretch of the imagination, a new concept. Its implications have been theorized from Sombart to Schumpeter to Christensen and most recently, Leopre. Rule of thumb in the capitalist marketplace is “Old habits and firms fail and fade. New ones take their place.”

What has fundamentally changed, however, is the rate of innovation. As Vivek Kundra, salesforce.com EVP of Industries and former CIO of the United States explained last month at Accelerate, “The era of an executive saying, ‘I have 5 years to show value’ is over. You have to be able to show value in days and months. That is what is so exciting about the current trend of disruption.”

Here is a look at 5 key steps your company can take to keep pace with the acceleration of innovation.

1. Don’t Try to Reinvent the Wheel

Shubber Ali, salesforce.com’s VP of Strategic Innovation, demystified the philosophy of corporate innovation to a captivated audience last month at Accelerate. “Don’t think you need to invent in the sense that you need to create something completely new. Instead, think about what you need to improve. Look at how other people are doing things and apply it your problems, your points of friction. How can you learn from what others did, to change what you do?”

2. Ask Those on the Front Lines

Those who are on the ground are often your best and most underutilized resource when it comes to innovation. They want to see change and they want to see improvement – nobody wants to do the same thing day in and day out. But more importantly, they are also the ones who are most familiar with your business processes and can readily identify points of friction and ways to improve them.

3. Re-Think Everything

Innovation begins with reframing. Dr. Wayne Dyer, renowned author and speaker, is known for saying, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” It’s important for companies to challenge orthodoxies in their business processes. By challenging orthodoxies, you will find absurdities and when you identify an absurdity, you identify an opportunity to make things better.

4. Leverage Partnerships

In the same sense that more heads are better than one, companies working within well-developed partnerships can generate more ideas and opportunities. The key is for each to focus on their unique value while subscribing to an overarching shared vision of the future. Mutual success is rooted in seeing a different opportunity coming from the same or similar technologies.

5. Encourage Innovation

This may seem like an obvious suggestion, but if your company culture doesn’t support innovation, it will never cultivate any. Ways to do so include expanding communication, recognizing and rewarding creativity, and opening up forums for employees of all levels to contribute ideas. Finally, and most importantly, a company that wants to be innovative must have an open mind.



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