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Does your company have a ‘Culture that Supports Innovation’ ?

Innovation is a much talked about word today especially in the business context. Although it is a vast area by itself to be discussed, stated in simple terms Innovation is the act of introducing something new. This could be a new product, a new service, process etc. which could lead to increased productivity and efficiency of the organization as well as adding value to its portfolio of customers.

As much as the concept of innovation is important for an organization, what seems most important is how the organization encourages and involves its employees towards the process of innovation. There are quite a few examples of globally recognized companies successfully reaping the benefits of such an ‘innovation supportive’ culture. At the same time there are companies which did not embrace such an open attitude towards innovation, and paid the ultimate price because of it.

According to a recent article which appeared in the Australian Financial Review magazine, In Kodak Company of USA, a young engineer named Steve Sasson who joined as a newcomer, had developed a prototype digital camera way back in 1975 and presented it to the technical, marketing and business development departments of Kodak.

At this particular time in 1975, Kodak had a virtual monopoly of the US photography market and made huge sums of money in every step of the photography process. It was a very successful business model suitable for those times. But the senior management at Kodak simply refused to look forward to the future, even when they had the innovative technology with them. Their response was that “Print had been with us for over 100 years, no one was complaining about prints, and they were very inexpensive, and so why would anyone want to look at their picture on a television set?"

By the time Kodak entered into the digital cameras market almost three decades later in 2003, there was already a lot of competition. They just couldn’t generate enough money from it and the losses kept piling on. Yet for his contribution towards the field of technology, Steve Sasson was awarded the USA National Medal of Technology and Innovation Award in 2009. Ironically, a few years later in 2012, his former company Kodak filed for Bankruptcy.

Looking at the more positive experiences of innovation supportive cultures, for example Wal-Mart is such a company that provides support and encouragement to its employees to come up with innovative ideas. Global conglomerate 3M allows its employees 15% of their working hours to do what they like in order to encourage innovative and creative thinking. At Google this is supposedly as high as 20%.

Also innovation can be in the form of ‘breakthrough innovation’ or ‘incremental innovation’ as well. In making this choice, incremental innovation is less costly in comparison and most organizations can implement it quite easily. One could also perceive it simply as continuous improvement of products or processes.

It is also a commonly known fact that most organizations think of innovation only in terms of Research and Development (R&D) expenditure. They seem to believe that in order to be a company successful in innovation you need a huge R&D budget. This is not the case as industry research recently performed by researchers Barry Jaruzelski and John Loehr (2011) has indicated less of a positive correlation between R&D costs and positive results. Instead the research suggests that, one of the most crucial factors for driving innovation is ‘a culture that supports innovation’.

Therefore simply by leveraging existing staff skills, any organization can identify staff members who possess the necessary capabilities in research and assign them a dedicated task of performing such market and industry research activities from time to time and to update the management with the findings on a periodical basis. The key then, is to have such versatile talent as a part of your work teams as well as managers and supervisors who identify, encourage & reward such innovative minds at work. That is what ultimately creates ‘a culture that supports innovation’

The revolutionary Steve Jobs who was the founder of Apple Corporation once quoted saying that “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower”. So if your organization also wants to have innovation as a key strategic goal for the future, then you need to make sure you have the right team of professionals working for you. However, this process of attracting and retaining world class professionals may be harder thank you think. Which is why, at times you may need to engage a specialist firm of recruiters to give you the right help at the right time.

In times such as these, the "Executive Recruitment Solutions" at Execom Personnel may be exactly what you need. Call us today for a free consultation and see how we can assist you to create your ideal team of professionals spearheading your company's Innovation initiatives.

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