4 Tactics of Successful Innovators

Leaders of the most innovative organizations create a culture that not only ignites new ideas, but takes them to market

Written by Kim Hart Macneill

How can companies become more innovative? Perhaps no one is more qualified to answer that question than U.S. academics Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen and the famed Clayton Christensen, authors of The Innovator’s DNA.

The book emerged from an eight-year collaborative study to understand the origins of innovative, and often disruptive, business ideas, the people who conceive them and the companies they build. Through interviews and financial reviews, the authors identified today’s most innovative business leaders and the skills they share that set them apart. Their key conclusion: leaders of the most innovative organizations “create a culture that not only ignites new ideas, but takes them to market” deploying the following four tactics.

1. Make innovation everyone’s job. Engaging employees in innovation is more than just adding the I-word to your lexicon. Actively solicit ideas from your entire staff, and allocate time and money to funding the best ideas, whether they come from R&D or the accounting department. Post ideas where everyone can read and expand on them, like a company wiki. About half of Google’s new products in recent years have come from ideas generated by staff members throughout the company.

2. Push the envelope. The most innovative companies spend real time and resources to develop projects that introduce new product categories and markets, while other firms devote most of their time to building incrementally on existing products. Apple was only a computer manufacturer before it entered into the music and phone businesses, a move that changed both industries. The authors recommend making 25% of this year’s new projects a departure from the everyday.

3. Deploy small teams. Large project teams can spend more time creating meetings and email threads than they do creating products. Smaller teams work faster, and allow you to purse multiple projects at once. Assemble teams using Amazon’s “Two Pizza Team” rule: a team should be small enough to be adequately fed by two pizzas (i.e., six to 10 people).  Build teams with the right mix of skills and monitor their progress to know when an idea isn’t panning out.

4. Take “smart” risks. In any entrepreneurial venture, there’s no success without risk. Companies that take smart risks hire discovery-driven people who observe, experiment and build on experience. Some innovation projects will fail, but learning what went wrong and how to avoid it next time will push your company farther than continually playing it safe.

Want More? Read The Inventor’s Playbook: useful tips and strategies to help you take your brilliant concept from mind to market

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