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Corporate Innovation Starts From the Top

Corporations should not invest in innovation if their executives are not totally engaged.


”Managers” or “leaders” are like the bow of a ship. They make decisions and are ready to determine the directions of an organization. That said, they are involved in the matter of life or death for a certain company or organization. 


In an age when “innovation” significantly takes a role in work and the business world, it is often argued about what “an innovation creation” in different forms of organizations, its importance, or the core of corporate innovation is exactly.


Dr. Hal Gregerson and Dr. Jeff Dyer, PhDs at the University of California, Irvine, and UCLA, stated that 'Innovation must be consciously cultivated at the leadership level, and then through the organization.' Moreover, in an article about Innovation Management, they also noted that if company leaders don't embrace innovative thinking and skills firsthand, the rest of the organization doesn't stand a chance.

Then, what are the approach or initial steps that lead to the spirit of innovation or cultivation of corporate innovation by executives? Mr. Erik Korsvik Østergaard, an author of The Responsive Leader, provides an explanation in SHOULD INNOVATION START FROM THE TOP OR FROM THE BOTTOM?

In summary, there are 5 simple steps through the concept of 3E’s and 2A’s as follows:

1. Encourage employees to change things

This is the toughest part as the first step is always the hardest. Reinforcing and advocating people to make a change to the existing norm is a hundred times more difficult than creating something new. This step requires an understanding and a combination of knowledge and arts of guidance.

2. Empower employees to change things

Apart from reinforcing and advocating them, authorization or permission in a tangible manner is another instrument for empowering people in an organization to make a change that could grow into a more flexible creation of innovation.

3. Embrace the fact that things change

After reinforcing, advocating, and authorizing people to do new things, executives must also be physically and mentally ready and embrace reality as a consequence of certain changes. That is because, if everything is ready but the executives themselves cannot accept changes, it seems to be difficult for the employees to progress further. 


For 2A’s

1. Accept failure without punishment

Apart from embracing the changes, executives also need to accept potential errors or drawbacks without imposing punishments. They need to consider the creation of innovations as “an experiment,” meaning that chances of mistakes are common. Even better, if leaders could observe, guide, and suggest some lessons learned from certain mistakes, it could fuel the passion for improvement and a better future experiment or progress.  

2. Accept that innovation takes time and resources.

Finally, it is a fact that innovation takes a varying amount of time and resources, depending on the steps, processes, and decisions of executives.  


These 5 points are just about the mindset needed in an executive. However, the role of an executive in innovation is also associated with being an influential leader, setting examples, putting emphasis on innovation, and measuring outcomes for the development and the benefit of an organization. At this point, the role of an executive or a chief looks grave. 


In fact, that is just a start for corporate innovation since an organization does not comprise of only executives but others as well, be it new employees, middle managers, or senior employees who have been a part of an organization for years. They are willing to corporate and would do what it takes to ensure the survival or growth of an organization if executives are equipped with 3E’s and 2A’s. We also have some tricks for employees of an organization as well. 

“Bottom-Up Innovation" is a concept of corporate innovation creation that the employees themselves could implement. Bear in mind that those in the frontline can most precisely see the problems. Although, in the end, the employees alone could not change the whole organizational forms, they can design the work processes, persuade and convince, and create their own platform and work styles.

As already mentioned, those who are closest to work are also closest to issues. Precisely, clearly, and concisely pointing out an issue is a starting step for creating more tangible innovation.

Certainly, for some organizations, changes are new. Working to respond to customer needs, however, seems usual and common for every organization. Initiating some changes with customer-centricity would blend well with the regular in an organization to make the so-called unusual like innovation grow under the shield that employees or even executives are familiar with.

After fostering an attempted change for a while, it is probably time to collect data and test whether what is identified an issue and a solution really works and what evidence of the solution is. This step requires a well-balanced concept between customers and the profitability of organizations.

Finally, once we are sure of an issue and a solution and have complete data, it is time to communicate with others within the organization for further results. This process is critical since accomplishing or merely finishing a form of innovation depends on this. If communication makes its way to listeners’ heart and the content is well prepared, innovation could come to life and flourish rapidly.

It is clear that, whether you are an executive or an employee of an organization, you can be a part of innovation creation. In short, if you are an executive, it is your duty to lead and put emphasis on this matter, make some decision to guide employees in your organization, and let the creation of innovation be an experiment. You also need to follow up, monitor, and design work processes, appropriately and consistently creating an environment of adaptability among employees in your organization.