Over the years, many smart thinkers have likened businesses to sharks—they need to move forward or they die. In no sector is this truer than in tech, where making innovation a business priority can spell the difference between being a household name and becoming obsolete.
While some industries view progress as something to be made in measured, incremental steps, the tech sector’s rapid drive to innovate is better represented in Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s famous motto, “Move fast and break things.” Compared to other industries such as pharmaceuticals and automotive, global tech companies have historically invested the greatest percentage of revenues into innovation and are more likely to focus on developing “breakthrough innovations” vs. “incremental change,” according to research from PwC.
And that was before the coronavirus crisis. Now, as companies try to beat back the fallout of the pandemic, three out of four executives agree innovation will be the key to business recovery. That number is even higher within the tech sector, with 85% of tech leaders telling McKinsey they believe COVID-19 will create the biggest opportunity for growth in the coming years.
As companies fight to recover—or just survive—creating and nurturing a culture of innovation has never been so important. According to Deloitte’s 2020 Global Technology Leadership Study, so-called “tech vanguards”—organizations that prioritize leveraging technology to drive business growth and change—outperform competitors across numerous critical success metrics including profitability, revenue growth, stock performance, and, yes, innovation. These outsized results are even more important during and after a crisis: McKinsey’s reporting found that businesses that continued to invest in innovation amid the Great Recession outperformed competitors by 10% during the financial crisis—and by more than 30% in the years immediately following.
Innovation is intentional: proactively foster the right culture
But innovation doesn’t happen by accident, and McKinsey’s research found that only a slim 21% of businesses feel fully ready to jump on new growth opportunities, with all the right expertise and resources in place.
As we head into 2021, we believe it’s never been more important for global tech companies to think proactively and holistically about fostering innovation. But instead of thinking about innovation as a thing people do, businesses need to think about how to foster ongoing innovation by creating company cultures that both explicitly and implicitly support the nurturing and execution of new ideas.
In this blog series, we’ll help you do just that, starting with a look at the three main things companies need to do to build a culture of innovation. Next, we’ll examine some common barriers to making innovation part of a company’s DNA, followed by a look at how businesses have employed unified communications, such as RingCentral, to help make innovation part of their core approach to business.
3 critical components of a culture of innovation
Establishing and nurturing a culture of innovation is about so much more than hiring the right people. Even the most creative, out-of-the-box thinkers will likely become stifled and discouraged if their companies, managers, and roles do not adequately support innovation.
As such, examining corporate culture and workplace support is an important place to start when it comes to building a more innovative culture. Here are three critical areas to focus on:
1. Employee experience and satisfaction
It’s hardly rocket science: companies that make employees feel excited about their jobs drive their workers to produce better outcomes. Better employee experiences that drive higher levels of engagement result in higher productivity and a greater willingness among workers to go above and beyond, including thinking outside their job descriptions for new ways to grow and improve business. That’s because better employee experiences set a solid foundation for success, engendering buy-in for company visions and ensuring workers have everything they need to do their best work.
But creating leading employee experiences is not a standalone strategy. It involves a careful examination of all aspects of work and work culture including:
- A clearly defined and communicated company vision and purpose
- Leadership and mentoring
- Tools and spaces that emphasize and promote teamwork and collaboration
- Trust and transparency
- Processes to monitor and measure employee engagement and satisfaction
2. Making time for innovation
It’s difficult to make progress when you’re busy treading water. Similarly, it’s difficult for employees to innovate (even if that’s an explicit part of their job) when they’re just trying to keep up with mundane ongoing duties.
With burnout on the rise (and stress and overworking being unlikely to help grow employee satisfaction), tacking more hours onto people’s workdays and workweeks isn’t the solution—eliminating bottlenecks and unnecessary work is. From automating repetitive tasks to streamlining business apps (which can free up an extra 32 full workdays per employee annually!), there are lots of ways businesses can save employees hours each week, giving them the time and space they need to develop and implement groundbreaking new ideas.
3. The right tools for innovation
While it may only require one person to come up with a lightbulb idea, true innovation relies on the collective perspectives, experience, and expertise of the whole team. But as companies become more distributed, and remote work becomes increasingly common, businesses will have to put in place tools that facilitate communication and collaboration from disparate locations.
From on-the-fly team messaging to reliable video-conferencing that makes brainstorming sessions from home as easy and productive as they are at the office, a culture of innovation relies on easy ways to connect and share ideas. A unified communications solution like RingCentral that provides all the must-have tools within a single app can do the trick. Even better, it can further support innovation if it integrates with other business apps teams are already using, reducing workflow redundancies and other time sucks.
But even companies focused on developing these building blocks for a culture of innovation may still experience challenges. In the next blog post in our Culture of Innovation series, we’ll examine some common barriers to innovation—along with the solution to each. Stay tuned!
Originally published Dec 03, 2020, updated Dec 30, 2022