It’s no surprise that Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech topped Fast Company’s list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies in 2021. These organizations were pioneers of vaccines that have proven to curb the spread of COVID-19, pivotal for returning the world to at least some semblance of normal in the hopefully near future.
But other companies on the list are a bit less obvious. Shopify was lauded as “giving small shops a lifeline,” helping retailers move their operations online and preserving their ability to continue to make sales. Meanwhile, Snap “bridged reality with mini-apps,” allowing people who were stuck at home to adjust to their new lives. And Asana has helped teams meet their goals, enabling businesses to track progress through Asana Goals.
Innovation takes many different forms. Today, in these unprecedented times, it’s critical to meet the new and emerging needs of consumers around the world by employing creativity.
1. Communicate Your Vision
You’re passionate about your ideas as a leader. But you can’t reach your goals single-handedly. You must get your team members to buy into that vision, too. That’s why it’s so critical to communicate your passion to others.
Show them the purpose behind the work. When your enthusiasm is palpable, others will feel it, too, and they will be inspired to take action.
2. Take the Longview
Rather than thinking of each project in isolation, consider it in terms of the bigger picture. How will every task involved in every project contribute to your overarching vision as a business? What problems will it solve, and what will it bring to your organization as a whole?
Consider, too, how each employee and resource adds to your overall mission. The point is to find value in everything you have and do.
3. Think Outside the Box
In the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, many distilleries saw a new application for their equipment and processes: churning out hand sanitizer. These businesses realized that this was what the market needed and that they had the power and materials needed to make it.
By thinking outside the box, you can tap into new markets and expand your reach as a business. You can also innovate more quickly.
4. Include All Voices in the Decision-Making Process
You’ve hired your employees for a reason — to make the most of their talents. When you include all the voices in the room in the decision-making process, you’re ensuring that you’re taking a comprehensive look into your processes and getting input from everyone.
You could very well find that you’ll receive ideas from unexpected sources, from the intern to the manager to the C-suite executives. Even the entry-level assistant may have a game-changing insight to offer.
5. Brainstorm and Crowdsource
Part of including all voices in the conversation involves pooling ideas together to determine which ones have merit. When you brainstorm together as a team, people will present a wide range of ideas, many of which could be valuable.
It’s also helpful to involve consumers in your innovation process. Give them a taste of your ideas and potential products, whether that means testing prototypes or asking for feedback on specific concepts via social media and other means.
6. Take Stock of Your Tools and Resources
Your people are the most critical assets you have as an organization. But you also need additional resources to turn their talents into meaningful contributions. Make sure you have the tools each of your employees needs to do their job well. Again, it could be useful to ask your team members for their input, because they will know best what they need to contribute to an innovative process.
7. Embrace Disparate Skill Sets and Diversity
Diversity is critical for infusing your organization with creativity. When you bring in people with different backgrounds, demographics, and skill sets, you’ll have a huge range of perspectives to draw from, which, in turn, leads to a greater number and breadth of ideas.
This isn’t limited to your full-time employees. Seek out freelancers, partners, and contributors who have unique thoughts and ideas to offer, too. This will help bring your organization more innovative and creative, utilizing the talents of disparate skill sets.
8. Make Innovation Fun
Work can involve play, too. Keep innovation — and morale — high by making work less of a slog. For example, you could gamify the innovation process by creating challenges. You might even offer awards to employees who come up with particularly good ideas, ones you decide as a team to try out in the real world.
You could also have collaborative, themed sessions where people work in teams to brainstorm and generate new approaches. This will serve to bring everyone together, all while making the process more creative.
9. Tap Into Business Intelligence
Ideas are important, but you also need to have solid evidence to back them up. Tap into business intelligence (BI) — analytics, metrics, and more — to determine how different products, services, and campaigns you’ve launched so far have performed. This will give you insight into how your new prospects will do in a competitive market.
BI can also help you see market conditions and consider how your ideas will or won’t thrive. This data is critical for assessing reach and whether your early-stage ideas have merit in real-world conditions.
10. Use Constraints — But Not Too Many
“Managers can innovate better by embracing constraints,” a Harvard Business Review report reveals. The authors reviewed 145 empirical studies on the effects of constraints on innovation. The analysis found that individuals, organizations, and teams all benefit from reasonable constraints. “It is only when the constraints become too high that they stifle creativity and innovation,” the article states.
Innovation is key to your success as a business. When you transform your organization by leveraging unique talents and looking beyond your normal procedures, you will tap into creativity and transform your business, allowing you to achieve your goals.