A culture where inspired and inspirational people share a common cause. A culture where rapid concept development is the norm and people are empowered to try out new and disruptive ideas. This is the only culture in which breakthrough innovation is likely to flourish.
Technology start-ups do this with ease, but larger companies often struggle to instil this sense of urgency and belief in what the company is trying to do, failing to allow teams the independence to succeed.
A good example of a large enterprise getting it right is Nike and their Nike+ mobile app - an app that works as a personal trainer. This clever proposition, promoting the ongoing consumerisation of healthcare, wasn’t developed by a single engineer toiling away in a cubicle. It was a collaborative effort between Nike’s marketing and product development teams, breaking new ground with fresh digital capabilities that provided the right environment for such an innovation.
Ultimately this nimble and entrepreneurial culture comes down to people. Companies must have the right recruitment strategies, hiring colleagues with agile new skillsets who will embody the brand as you want it to be. It’s also vital that you try to understand your team’s motivations, because success will depend on exciting people doing extraordinary things, an acceptance of failure and confidence in the face of uncertainty.
At Philips people want to feel like they’ve made a difference. Our mission is to improve the lives of 3bn people a year by 2025. It’s important to make sure colleagues are kept connected to the impact their work has had on the world. This may mean innovating consumer products that foster a healthier lifestyle or creating new technologies and techniques that allow minimally invasive surgery, resulting in faster patient recovery and lower healthcare costs.
Even on a smaller scale you can have great impact. We recently undertook an experiment in the town of Uppsala, in Sweden - ‘lighting up the dark’ – encouraging children to spend more time playing outside.
Most importantly, in the search for innovation, companies must remain authentic. They must do what they say. Innovation should not only reside in sales materials and marketing tag lines. Companies that claim to be innovative must demonstrate this to their customers every day.
Ideally, marketing and innovation should be two sides of the same coin, but we should remember that innovation must ultimately focus on customer needs. It is this customer-centric and integrated approach that has propelled the world’s most adored brands – from Apple, to Google – from what could have easily been category mediocrity to the height of fame. There’s no reason why we can’t learn from their achievements and, with the help of an evolving and curious mind-set, create an environment where meaningful innovation can thrive.