That’s why innovation must be intentional, with formal structures in place to support it. Companies that successfully institutionalize innovation do so by making its pursuit a practical, daily experience rather than a fanciful vision. This systematic approach pays off for employees, clients, business partners, and the organization as a whole.
Why Investing in Continuous Innovation Pays Off
It’s simply good business to scrutinize old ways of working and find meaningful new ways forward. We’ve seen this firsthand at JLL with our long-running Da Vinci Awards program, which sources and rewards employees’ top ideas to better serve our clients. Launched 15 years ago, the program has been inspiring and rewarding creative thinking ever since — with tangible payoff. Since 2004, Da Vinci Award-winning solutions have delivered $200 million in annual savings for our clients.
In addition to the financials, there is deep value in the people power these awards generate. Encouraging staff to pursue their ideas creates a more meaningful employee experience — particularly if their solutions are rewarded with a cash prize and the opportunity to bring the innovation to life. When an employee has the power to influence organizational change, they feel more inspired to bring their best to work each day.
Four Keys to Institutionalizing Innovation
We know innovation doesn’t happen by chance. Organizations that continuously churn out new products and ideas tend to share four common characteristics:
- Leaders cultivate a culture of innovation. Supporting a bottom-up culture of innovation can only happen with top-down support. Employees need to know they are encouraged to chase big ideas. That means instituting initiatives like issue-driven idea campaigns, social networking contests, productivity challenges, and awards programs. And incorporating innovation into performance metrics and KPIs (key performance indicators) holds employees accountable for delivering ideas that create value.
- Everyone is an innovator. Innovation will never take root if you only value input from select people. From entry-level analysts to C-suite executives, everyone in an organization needs to embrace a mindset that welcomes disruption and continuous improvement. When this happens, surprising results emerge in unlikely places.
For example, engineer Dave Crowell, a past Da Vinci award winner, devised an ingenious way to make electrical work safer and more efficient. His now-patented Electrical Safety Grid has the potential to save 500 lives each year. And his story inspires other employees with the realization that, when supported by their organization, one person can shape the industry.
- Transformation is viewed as a team effort. An organization’s employees aren’t the only ones who have great ideas. When you involve customers, research institutions, incubators, and other third parties in ideation, you open the window to new possibilities, from small process improvements to large-scale product and service offerings.
- Disciplined vetting process is in place. Without governance and structure, innovation is just one big brainstorm. It takes discipline to prioritize and advance the most appropriate ideas. Innovative organizations have the right processes, policies, vetting protocols, and defined roles and responsibilities to find champions for the ideas that are most likely to blossom into something new.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is already transforming how and where organizations conduct business. By facilitating continuous innovation, companies can keep ahead of the curve. And by looking for organizations that have clearly invested in the people and tools that drive a culture of innovation, a business can partner with outside experts in other arenas and create shared value.