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In last week’s blog, we shared seven tips to help you improve your business in 2022 as our holiday gift to you. Because we just can’t get enough of giving, today we are offering seven more innovation secrets straight from Silicon Valley to take you to another level. Because we all know seven is a magic number! So buckle up and…ssssh!! These secrets are for your ears only.

Some Hard Truths About Innovation

According to a recent study by McKinsey and Company, 90% of executives agree that the COVID-19 crisis will fundamentally change the way they do business over the next five years, yet only 21% say they have the resources and commitment to pursue new growth.

The same study shows that 84% of business leaders cite Innovation as critical to their organization’s success, yet only 6% are satisfied with their innovation results.

This sounds like an insurmountable challenge, doesn’t it? Given that situation, how can CEOs and their leadership teams possibly lead their organizations to thrive during this unparalleled time of change?

Well, the good news is that many companies have already led the way in innovating themselves quickly. They provide solid models to balance today’s priorities and remain profitable while building a better organization for tomorrow.

Below, we share seven innovation secrets for C-suite executives looking to increase the speed, ROI, and sustainability of innovation while keeping the lights on for their core business operations. Even better, we include suggested actions to implement these secrets in tangible ways.

7 Innovation Secrets from Silicon Valley

1. Don’t React to the Change. Be the Change

Since the pandemic, we’ve changed the way we interact with each other and the world. We’ve changed our priorities, our daily habits, and even what we care about most. Organizations that have successfully made the pivot and turned challenges into opportunities are on top of just-in-time trends including immersive at-home shopping experiences, attention to the work-from-home hybrid employee, placing a greater priority on health and safety, and care for the environment. 

Action: The 2022 Trend Hunter Report poses key trends across industries and questions. Download it, read it, and consider its contents. One amazing tidbit you’ll discover there is how the fitness industry made a difficult pivot so quickly. Gyms closed overnight, so they switched over to home fitness products and services.  This was only possible because they were proactive in creating the change themselves. Monitoring key trends will help you keep ahead of the curve, whatever industry you are in.

2. Innovate With Customers, Not For Them

Intuit provides customers a private boardroom where they can meet with product engineers for a coffee and just-in-time feedback. The pandemic has made in-person visits more difficult, of course. But technology enables you to tap into customer input and wisdom for the continuous product or process development and improvement without leaving your home. 

Action: Give customers their own boardroom! This could be in-person, virtual, or both. Once you have that, create a plan for ongoing customer engagement and feedback.  Make it a continuous plan, not a once-a-year strategy event. 

3. Make Innovation as Natural as Breathing

The truth is, innovation is that natural if you let it be. A key reason why innovation fails is the lack of a framework to keep innovation sustainable by incorporating it into the daily workflow and deliverables of every employee. Hosting an all-hands Innovation event once a year or placing innovation in the hands of one R&D team does not position your organization for success.  In fact, it likely does the opposite!

Action: Incorporate innovation into every employee’s job description. Create a system for idea management using smart technology to make the process work for everyone, wherever they are, all the time. Most importantly, apply best practices to help the best ideas rise to the top as you move from identifying the challenges to creating the highest ROI. Our Innovation Minds solutions employ the most up-to-date artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques and technologies to help you accelerate innovation and sustain it every day. 

4. Create a Space and Place for Connection and Collaboration

When the pandemic hit, most organizations scrambled to find new ways to collaborate and connect remotely. Today, as we move to a more hybrid setup, technology is enabling us to connect and collaborate in new ways. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, virtual water coolers and whiteboards, creative meetups, and online events have become part of our “new normal.” This shift has helped us work together on ideas and projects regardless of our geography.  This leaves one simple critical question for leaders to ask themselves. Is your organization optimized to collaborate in both in-person and virtual spaces?

Action: Look beyond your physical space. Design a hybrid workplace that optimizes connection and collaboration. At the same time, you need to take account of the real and serious challenge of tool exhaustion. The best practice today is to build an integrated virtual space where employees can bring elements of both work and play to feel they still belong to a coherent team and bring forth their best thinking.

5. Take the Risk Out of Risk-Taking

Reflect on your own experiences both in business and in your personal life.  Have you learned more from failure or from success? Most people agree that failure has been a far more impactful teacher. Ever heard the phrase “Failure is not an option?” That’s a motto we suggest you retire in 2022.  The key to thriving in today’s tsunami of change is “Fail Fast and Get Up Faster.” Or as Rabbi Daniel Hillel once wrote, ““I get up. I walk. I fall down. Meanwhile, I keep dancing.”  In short, failure isn’t just ok. It’s the best way to open the door to success.

Action: Host a FailFest in the first quarter of 2022 to help create and instill an environment of embracing and learning from failure. At Innovation Minds, we can offer you a framework for a FailFest that assures creating a safe way to practice this essential technique. Yes, we can help you assure that your practice of failure will succeed! Who wants to fail at learning to fail better, right? Contact our team to help you set up a virtual or in-person FailFest for early next year.

6. Map the Ethnography of Your Employees, Not Just Your Customers

You probably already know that mapping your customer experience is critical to your business’s success. But have you thought about mapping your employee experience with as much focus?  Identifying each and every touchpoint of your employee experience from recruitment to the exit interview will make exit interviews a lot less necessary. Don’t let your top talent stay silent while they plot their move to greener pastures.  Improved employee experience almost automatically guarantees a dramatic increase in talent retention. 

Action:  Innovation Minds can help you map every employee interaction using our artificial intelligence and machine learning-driven cloud solution. Technology can help you pinpoint your experience challenges and uncover the hidden pain points of your employees. But on top of this great software, our team includes world-class experts in employee experience, innovation, emerging technology, and change management, all necessary elements of the demanded transformation. Our unmatchable personal expertise can provide your organization with a surefire way to build and sustain a breakthrough employee experience. Once that’s in place, we can help you check in with employees frequently to identify areas for ongoing improvement.  

7. Start Small While Seeking Scale

Voltaire wrote: “The best is the enemy of the good.” Confucius said: “Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.” Of course, these great minds were not talking about 21st-century startups. But they might as well have been. In today’s rapid era of change, achieving an MVP (minimal viable product) as quickly as possible is far more important than waiting for everything to be the best it can possibly be before sharing it with the public. Instead of waiting for perfection, rather get your product or process out there as soon as possible. Then keep improving it on a regular basis. Indeed, customer input on your work so far can be one of the best inputs you can ever get. Especially when they know you actually want it!

Action: Tap into the adaptability and flexibility principles of Agile, Design Thinking, and sprints. Emphasize ongoing prototyping and testing instead of keeping things hidden. Rely more on the wisdom of your customers, not only your internal team, by actively asking for and welcoming their input. Reach out to us at Innovation Minds for a consultation around best practices on new product and process development.

You know what, we’ve thought better of it. Go ahead and share this post with your friends and colleagues, and spread the secrets widely. There’s no point in a secret if it isn’t shared. And we bet they’ll appreciate an extra stocking stuffer.

by Rosemary Rein, SVP Product and Michael Lee, SVP Strategy, Innovation Minds