Without a doubt, innovation drives today's fast-paced, technology-driven and highly competitive business environment. To survive, companies must lead with innovation to evolve, adapt and anticipate the needs and wants of their consumers.

The radical shift in how companies conduct business due to the pandemic has accelerated conversations around innovation and strategy. Business leaders are looking for new ways to enhance customer experience, reduce costs, drive revenue and grow market share. To meet these objectives, many have embraced the concept of innovation. However, their efforts tend to fall flat or end up delivering undesirable results because they fail to include certain critical elements of a successful innovation strategy.

5 Elements of a Successful Innovation Strategy

Five critical elements lie at the core of any successful innovation strategy: Innovation Culture, Leadership Buy-In, Enable Team Members, Reward and Recognize, and Defined Metrics and KPIs. These concepts are imperative to achieving results and maintaining a scalable, sustainable innovation model.

1. Build an Innovation Culture

Companies successful at innovation have a specific mindset and pattern for generating and implementing new ideas. Pushing innovation without having a culture to support creative thinking will fail – wasting valuable time, money and resources in the process.

The first step in building an innovative company culture is to get a pulse and accurate read on where the company stands with innovation. Meetings with leadership and surveys of your team members will help you gauge the level of existing innovation culture. From here, you can focus your efforts on how to build or support your innovation culture.

Remember: Transparency plays a significant role in engaging all team members in innovation. Constant communication, training and check-ins at all levels help establish transparent dialogue on how innovation can create positive change – fueling innovation culture.

Related Article: Innovation Can Be Taught. And Measured

2. Innovation Requires Leadership Buy-In 

Leaders must be aligned with one another and have a shared appreciation for innovation principles. Leadership buy-in may come from a passion for client service, constantly seeking faster and simpler ways to do business, making time to innovate, or sharing and scaling results. When leaders don't believe in the process, their mindset quickly trickles to the rest of the team — which stops innovation culture in its tracks. Remember: It's not just what you say. It's explicit decisions and subtle behaviors that inspire innovation and keep it at the forefront of a company's culture.

A successful innovation strategy reinforces leadership buy-in by consistently highlighting the positive outcomes of innovation through team member engagement at all levels throughout the innovation process.

3. Team Members Need the Tools and Resources to Innovate

Equip your team members with the right tools and resources to innovate. When you provide everyone in your company with the structure, process and tools necessary to connect and share their knowledge, you give anyone permission to innovate. Many of the most impactful, innovative ideas come from those who do the work, day-in and day-out. Remember: Enabling your team members gives them the power to have a voice and take ownership in the innovation process.

Whether ideating independently or collaborating in a group, it contributes to enhancing a company's innovation culture. Cloud-based innovation platforms also enable businesses to strengthen engagement and collaboration. Innovation platforms are another tool to keep your people inspired, ideas organized and teams accountable throughout your innovation journey.

Related Article: 4 Surprise Innovation Lessons From COVID-19

Learning Opportunities

4. Reward and Recognize Innovation at Its Roots

A big reason companies fail to innovate is because they do not recognize and reward their people for their contributions to innovation. When you fail to give credit or always acknowledge those who lead the teams rather than those involved in the ideation of an innovative concept, other team members grow discouraged and quickly lose the desire to think creatively.

Recognizing individuals who contribute to your innovation goals is an essential piece of a successful innovation strategy. Remember: Acknowledgment reinforces desired innovative behaviors and promotes an innovation culture.

Also, realize everyone has different strengths, so some will be better at different phases of the innovation process than others. Therefore, you must reward and recognize often at every stage of the innovation process – from ideation through execution. Try a combination of financial incentives like gift cards or bonuses, paid time off, office parties, company-wide emails, awards, workspace decorations, or a celebration hub and digital wall of fame. Whatever incentive fits your company culture, ensure you reward and recognize team members for their innovative contributions.

5. Define Metrics and KPIs Which Drive Innovation (and Support Business Objectives)

As a business leader, defined metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) are essential to tracking your company's goals. The same logic applies to innovation. Choose KPIs that relate to your business objectives, corporate mindset and team behaviors.

Be transparent on what metrics and KPIs support and drive company-wide innovation. Some examples of innovation metrics and KPIs include:

  • Number of team members trained
  • Number of ideas submitted
  • Number of ideas executed
  • Total revenue generation
  • Total cost savings

Remember: If you don't measure it, you won't achieve it.

Related Article: Why So Many Large Companies Stink at Innovation

What's Your Innovation Strategy?

When you look at your company's approach to innovation, does it include the five elements of a successful innovation strategy? If not, revisit your approach. In a rapidly evolving business environment, harnessing the power of creativity is the key to staying competitive. Don't risk failure and being surrounded by a pool of innovative ideas just out of reach.

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