Company-Wide Innovation Is an Anticipatory Imperative

Daniel Burrus
May 28, 2020

Daniel Burrus

One of the World's Leading Technology Forecasters and Business Strategists
Innovation Creativity & Innovation Business Employee Engagement Leadership

Company-Wide Innovation Is an Anticipatory Imperative

If you were to ask anyone in your organization to outline their daily responsibilities, you'd likely get a list that includes position titles rather than responsibilities, like sales or information technology. But what about something more crucial to the overall goals of the organization, like innovation?

It is likely that employees don't think of their role as being part of innovation, either for a lack of understanding of what innovation means at the company or the literal thought that their department couldn't possibly innovate anything of value. Some may even believe that innovation is purely the concern of a sole department--one they cannot identify, but certainly not theirs.

But innovation should be company-wide, not restricted to one person or department. We are living in a time of transformational innovation that features game-changing digital disruption at every turn, in every industry. If you are the leader of your organization, think of each department in some ways as an industry in and of itself, each of which could be disrupted internally and then spread like wildfire throughout all other facets of your organization.

Revolutionary business technology is rendering traditional systems and modes of thinking less relevant and even obsolete. Instead of workers minding their own tasks in their own departments, so to speak, everyone must innovate.

Here are a few companies, both known and relatively under the radar, that encourage company-wide innovation.

3M

This company, which is best known for its Post-It notes and Scotch tape, is also known for being a leader in innovation. It takes some looking under the hood of what this company has to offer its employees to really understand why they're so known for being forward thinkers. For example, instead of shutting down everything at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, 3M quickly pivoted their workforce to start making PPE for both frontline workers and the general population in preparation for masks becoming a requirement, long before they were actually required in some businesses.

Before the pandemic, as of 2019, 3M boasts filing around 3,000 patents a year, featuring everything from big, brand-new ideas to even the smallest improvements to their products. The reason for this is that leaders in the company ask their workforce of nearly 91,000 innovative employees to devote around 15% of their time to work on ideas and projects that reach far outside their everyday tasks in their departments.

3M doesn't merely look at each employee as solely responsible for what their department and title define them as. They encourage those employees to break from the stereotypes of what, for example, the marketing department is capable of. This yields impressive results. They are essentially investing time instead of money in their employees' capabilities.

Chobani

The Norwich, New York, company that produces a well-known yogurt took a huge gamble by way of assigning the duties of 90% of its agency work, such as retail execution, PR, advertising, and design, to employees in all different departments that have never done these specific tasks before. Even in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, they made donations of different kinds to assist communities in their time of need.

In addition to that, Chobani decided to invest innovation time into their employees and in turn created an in-house, 359-person team that operates all under one budget. Because of this, they were able to expedite an otherwise slow-moving product to market: their Less Sugar Greek Yogurt product was taken from concept to retail stores in less than six months.

Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory

Sometimes "if you build it, they will innovate" is a reality! This state-of-the-art research firm based out of Laurel, Maryland, actually built a technology lab that allows any employee access 24/7. In this lab, users have access to 3D printing, virtual and augmented reality tools, and a general electronics workbench, where they can work on any and every idea they have in the technology space.

As a result, in 2018 the company reported having up to 419 new inventions and technological breakthroughs on already-existing technology and, additionally, 30 new patents. Having a collaborative space and, likewise, a database that houses new developments in its other labs opens up endless possibilities for employees to perform trial-and-error experiments without the fear that most employees have of harsh scrutiny of their out-of-the-box ideas.

Break Down Barriers to Encourage Innovation

The examples above, and many others like them, underscore a basic necessity regarding organization-wide innovation: it doesn't occur by itself. Rather, organizations need to build environments that promote innovation.

That can be wrongfully misconstrued as always being a financial investment, but the 3M example above shows that investing time instead of money can be a successful strategy. Other companies offer remote work or, as is the case at Johns Hopkins, a physical "play area" to try new things during off-hours.

Building a pervasive attitude of innovation conveys the message that employees' contributions are not only welcome but necessary. When leadership recognizes the personal and professional benefits that derive from a commitment to innovation, it fosters organizational collaboration and encourages anticipatory thinking as well.

Daniel Burrus

Want Daniel Burrus for your next event?

Find out more information, including fees and availability.
Find Out More
Keep Reading
Agility and Anticipation--A Vital Partnership
Daniel Burrus
Daniel Burrus
July 08, 2020
While exponential change is always moving, businesses and even whole industries ...
Collaborate With a Strategic Alliance to Find Success
Daniel Burrus
Daniel Burrus
July 01, 2020
Traditionally, the concept of success through collaboration in the business world ...
Is Success A Big Limitation?
Daniel Burrus
Daniel Burrus
June 24, 2020
I once gave a commencement speech where I made a comment that took the parents and graduates completely by ...
Agility and Anticipation--A Vital Partnership
While exponential change is always moving, businesses and even whole industries traditionally move slower than they should, often finding themselves disrupted and working hard at being agile alone. During the Coronavirus pandemic, all industries were disrupted in one way or another, many having to close their doors for the time being and forfeit...
Read More
Collaborate With a Strategic Alliance to Find Success
Traditionally, the concept of success through collaboration in the business world has been focused on eliminating competition to find success in ways that benefit the industry the competitors share. However, during the coronavirus pandemic of 2020, success through collaboration was redefined when two tech giants, Apple and Google, collaborated o...
Read More
Is Success A Big Limitation?
I once gave a commencement speech where I made a comment that took the parents and graduates completely by surprise. I said, "I don't want you to try to live a successful life; it will limit you, as success is only about you and the accolades on your wall. Instead, live a significant life. Significance is about what you do for everyone else....
Read More
Which Trends Can You Trust?
Mention the word "trend" in a group setting and you'll find that most will shrug it off, the reason being that the word "trend" has a negative connotation to it, causing trends to be considered untrustworthy. Having an avoidance relationship with trends of any kind based on this aura can be a significant mistake in your career. Some trends are s...
Read More
Is the "New Normal" We Face a Soft Trend?
There will always be certainties about the future that we simply cannot change. Some are rather obvious, such as the reality that spring will always follow winter, summer follows spring, and fall follows summer. There are other future certainties that have nothing to do with the seasons, and that we all can agree we look forward to. One examp...
Read More
Company-Wide Innovation Is an Anticipatory Imperative
If you were to ask anyone in your organization to outline their daily responsibilities, you'd likely get a list that includes position titles rather than responsibilities, like sales or information technology. But what about something more crucial to the overall goals of the organization, like innovation? It is likely that employees don't...
Read More
Learning to Manage Opportunity in the Unknown
We all manage something in our lives. Whether we manage other people, an entire organization, sales or even just ourselves, management is part of our everyday lives and includes careful planning, well-thought-out direction and a sense of control. What happens when we apply that definition of management to the concept of opportunity? What if we w...
Read More
Post-Pandemic Success Will Be Determined by What You Do Now
Post-Pandemic Success Will Be Determined by What You Do Now, Not What You Do Post-Pandemic. No one ever thought that starting in this new decade, our booming economy and flourishing job market would be placed on "pause" due to a worldwide outbreak of a virus, yet here we are. 2020 has been an interesting year to say the least, but there are obv...
Read More
Hard Trends: Easier to Identify Than You Think
A well-worn cliche says there are only two things you can be certain about: death and taxes. With apologies to those who agree with that statement, there are many, many more examples of out-and-out certainties. Was Sunday followed by Monday last week? Absolutely. Will that be the case next week? You can count on it. A more timely and, in some wa...
Read More
Redefine Risk in the Face of the Unknown
In the past, organizations have practiced agility more than anything else because it is easy to simply pivot and put out small fires as they arise. But with the world facing a global pandemic, statewide lockdowns here in the United States, and a once-booming economy now seemingly frozen in time, organizations both large and small are caug...
Read More