The 6 Keys to Productivity and Innovation in The Enterprise

Filed Under Mind Mapping

Golden key in keyhole
Rik Walters

December 4, 2013

What if you were given the choice to innovate and it really mattered? What if it was not just the hyperbolic rhetoric that conflates corporate productivity with innovation?

I’m not talking about the overblown expectations of a crazy boss, or a slick motivational speaker. I’m talking about bringing about transformational productivity and innovation in a way that really matters.

‘Innovation’ is an oft used, clichéd, yet multi-faceted word in the enterprise today. It has a different meaning to most everyone, and seems intangible to many — especially as it applies to productivity. Seeking out new ideas that can be quickly brought to market for profit is as old as commerce. The reality of our borderless, globalized world is that it requires constant vigilance to stay ahead of our competition through improving all areas of our business. Is there anything more important than innovation, especially as it applies to productivity in the enterprise?

“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” ~ Paul J. Meyer

Productivity, like innovation, cannot be properly optimized without planning, commitment and discipline. Many times, corporate management and the enterprise as a whole can be ‘stuck’ in organizational innovation theories, rather than the real and practical execution of innovation as it applies to productivity and organizational success. Driving innovation within the constraints of a balanced scorecard, process-driven culture is possible, but is it outside the comfort zone of the enterprise? Let’s look at the causation and effect as productivity works in harmony with innovation.

The Discipline of Innovation

The Discipline of innovation must allow ‘out-of-the-box’ risk-taking, such as the tangible advances that led us to the creation of the microchip, the personal computer, smart phones, and tablets. What we see now is innovation as mitigation, or insurance against failure that stifles productivity, and does not lead to true innovation. Many conservative, tried-and-true cultures understandably are reluctant to break the molds that shaped them in an effort to re-mold themselves through disciplined innovation practices much how Apple, Amazon, and Google have done over the past decade. The counter to that success and the lack of innovation, and productivity are evident with the troubles at HP, Yahoo, Eastman Kodak, and Borders.

Innovation as it applies to productivity is a scalable, repeatable business process that is always evolving and changing, just as the marketplace and the global economy changes sometimes overnight.

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

The balanced scorecard approach to strategic management, coupled with business transformation initiatives are popularly taught in business schools, and used within most of the manufacturing companies. Are these work processes as well as the S.M.A.R.T. philosophy for Human Capital beneficial or do they hinder enterprise productivity and innovation growth?

Peter Drucker’s sensible and pragmatic statement, “It’s easier for companies to come up with new ideas than let go of old ones” is more important than ever. It is time to embrace new innovation technology tools, rather that relying on perceived comfort of past-formulated processes.

For the comparatively small number of people who actually lean ‘outside the box’ and take steps to get work done in innovative new ways, they run the risk of corporate sanction or worse, just to succeed. Over the past 10 years the Internet has had an incredible impact on removing the barrier to entry of just about any idea you can imagine, removing any barriers to online publishing, creating what Oliver Marks calls, ‘information deflation’. With the proper crowd inspiration tool, you can drive business Innovation very quickly, providing streamlined productivity improvement that is realized almost immediately.

In Margie Warrell’s article, Why Getting Comfortable with Discomfort is crucial to Success’, she states, “In an increasingly competitive, cautious and accelerated world, those who are willing to take risks, step out of their comfort zone and into the discomfort of uncertainty will be those who will reap the biggest rewards.”

Time for an Enterprise Evolution

The primary challenge for those organizations seeking to innovate is in overcoming the inertia of the old world, and the negative aspects of the modern. That can be much harder, complex and more political than it appears at a high level. Open up the innovation processes to the entire organization, and even outside the organization to empower, rather than stifle transformational productivity and growth. These hurdles must be cleared for your enterprise to evolve in the 21st century.

The 6 keys to advancing Enterprise innovation and productivity

1. Strategy. Put the emphasis on your reasons to get out of the corporate ‘comfort zone’ and drive strategic direction outside the box with strategy. Use an innovation technology tool to drive participation at every level of your enterprise.  Then gauge and measure results for effective change with metrics for productivity, and to show ROI to management.

2. Objectives. Efficiency alone is not the key to productivity through innovation. Pair strategy with defined objectives to maximize productivity potential. Set a baseline for current objectives, then benchmarks throughout the process to gain insight along the way. Track key performance indicators that show value creation, underpinned by a deep understanding of how these connect.

3. Expect failure. This is an important one. There can be a severe stigma surrounding failure, and this can thwart the innovation and productivity in your enterprise. An aversion to risk can stifle growth, innovation, and productivity creating productivity malnutrition. The ability to ‘safely fail’ can open the possibilities that are just around the corner for your company’s biggest successes ever!

4. Leadership. Truly innovative organizations are open, collaborative, and iconoclastic. These characteristics that can’t be achieved overnight. Becoming a highly productive and innovative organization often requires deep cultural shifts in training, hiring, team dynamics, risk tolerance, and most important of all, a commitment in senior leadership.

5. Discipline. How much of innovation is inspiration, and how much of productivity is perspiration or simply hard work? Establish and define the right roles and processes. Innovation is real work and many times innovation is the work of knowing rather than doing. The more disciplined your innovation-management processes, the greater the likelihood you’ll have results to show for your efforts.

6. Repeatable. For sustained innovation, productivity, and growth in your enterprise, it is imperative to have tools and systems in place for repeatable success. To advance innovation and productivity, it must be a self-sustaining ecosystem for improvement. For that you need a portfolio of ideas at various stages in what is called, the Vision to Action Lifecycle™.

Enterprise innovation moves so fast now. In five years we will be talking about the companies that achieved extraordinary success. We don’t know what those changes will be, but we do know it will not be companies that stayed inside their comfort zone. Rather, it will be those that continued to reach within and outside of their organizations, even when the road was tough. Those willing to risk failure or looking foolish, knowing that the biggest risk…is not taking any risks at all.