7 secrets of most innovative companies

What are the secrets to being an innovative company? Innovation, remember, is not the same thing as success. Just because you have good sales figures and are successfully growing your company does not mean that your company is innovative. Innovativeness can be difficult to measure and, although you hope it will eventually benefit your bottom line, the boost is usually not immediately apparent. That being said, how do you become an innovative company? What are innovative companies doing that others are not? Well, here is a list of seven secrets to innovation.

Innovative companies are willing to re-invent their image.

Sometimes, when a business has been created with a particular image or primary product, it is difficult to consider changing or expanding that focus. Willingness to change a company’s focus is a key point of innovation, though. For instance, if you run a fuel oil company, an innovative and productive measure might be to expand your product line to include more eco-friendly products and remarket yourself as a general energy needs company.

Allowing space – physical space – for innovation helps companies be innovative.

Open floor designs, for instance, foster creative conversation and discussion and make the entire office into an information-sharing network. The BMW factory in Leipzig has an open layout like this, although sometimes there are more creative and visually interesting ways of making spaces foster innovation. At the Google building in the Silicon Valley, for instance, there is a gigantic staircase that has outlets lined all the way up it – and programmers are encouraged to sit down and plug in anywhere that an idea strikes them.

Successful innovators sell dreams, not products.

The new wave in innovation is to market your product or service as a means to achieving a dream. You need to understand your target demographic well enough to have an idea what sorts of dream they will achieve using your product – and then market your product accordingly. Steve Jobs once said, “Some people think you’ve got to be crazy to buy a Mac, but in that craziness we see genius.” Understanding your target demographic that well can help you understand their dreams and how to market to them – so the first step is to think about your target demographic in a different light, in terms of their dreams instead of in terms of their current needs.

Innovative companies know how to say no.

Although innovation involves a lot of risk and experimentation as well as potentially a lot of failure, that doesn’t mean saying yes to every idea that crosses your desk. You should only pursue as many innovative as you can reasonably commit resources to because if you try to explore an idea without enough resources you won’t get anywhere. Say yes to new and creative ideas – but be able to recognize when you have enough ideas on your plate.

Innovative companies understand that innovation is a commitment.

Fostering innovation requires a financial commitment; you have to be willing to invest resources into ideas that may fail. Google, for instance, encourages its employees to spend 80 percent of their time working on core projects and 20 percent working on innovation – which means that they accept that 20 percent of each employee’s salary might be going toward things that don’t immediately have a positive effect on company productivity. As with anything experimental, not every innovative effort works out as planned, but innovative companies understand that and are still willing to make the commitment to trying.

Hire people who love what they do.

In some sense, this is a no-brainer. However, if you’re really serious about creating an innovative company, you will actually learn to value passion over experience for certain positions. Generally it is not advisable to ignore experience in hiring decisions, but if what you need is fresh blood and new ideas, then passion and even a lack of experience – and thus a lack of preconceived ideas about the industry – can be an asset. Of course, it depends on your company’s needs and on the industry; you will know what is best for your business.

Innovative companies are flexible.

In order for innovation to succeed, sometimes your plans have to change mid-way through. You may need to combine two separate innovation projects or bring in different people. Your top employees are not necessarily your top innovators, so if you want to bring a more innovative touch to an existing project or plan, you may need to bring in some of your more creative employees, whether or not they are usually your powerhouse workers. Traditionally, there are certain powerhouse employees that you tend to assign to your most important tasks, but part of the necessary flexibility for innovation is a willingness to assign other employees to tasks of innovation.

Can Akdeniz

Can Akdeniz is the author of seven books and founder of Business Hacker, a popular business blog. His books such as Go Nuts, Cool Boss, Happy Company and MBA 2.0 have changed how people think about business, productivity and work.