Did you know that Caribbean companies are lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to innovation? We invest less in research and development, launch fewer new products and services, and register fewer patents and other forms of intellectual property than many other countries in Europe, Asia and parts of the Americas, according to the World Bank.
In the report Many Firms But Little Innovation, the World Bank noted that countries in Latin America and the Caribbean had vibrant entrepreneurial populations, but very limited innovation, which resulted in stagnant company growth and relatively weak economic impact.
On a more positive note, this spells tremendous opportunity. There is significant room for improvement in output, impact, profitability and growth for Caribbean businesses that recognize this innovation dilemma, and then take firm action to change the status quo. Here’s how you can start making your company more innovative right now:
Declare a long-term commitment. You will need to make innovation a way of life and part of the organizational culture by developing an innovation strategy. To make a firm commitment to strengthening innovation within your company, define how you will improve and set benchmarks to measure innovation. Then establish a budget and invest in your employees, identifying innovation tsars to drive the process and create a supportive environment.
De-clutter and sensitize. Creating an enabling environment can require both physical and psychological changes. Google, for example, is famous for its bold office spaces designed to promote productive work. Creating a clean and minimalist space can help encourage openness and clarity of thought. On the psychological front, try to instill a company culture where employees can share ideas without fear of rejection or ridicule.
Hire and train for innovation. The best investment in this process is in your people. Remember that everyone is capable of bringing dynamic, new profitable ideas to the fore. Be sure that your hiring process includes innovation assessment tools. Including relevant metrics in employment contracts and performance appraisals will be critical because what gets measured, gets done.
Employees also need training and tools. They need the time to create as well as room to make mistakes and to learn and improve. Innovation training has to be ongoing and sustained, which is where many companies fall short.
Hiring the right people and providing continuous training, empowerment and motivation will make a major difference in your company’s performance. Keep in mind that giving employees the space to innovate often requires time to allow their ideas to germinate. Some companies give employees as much as 20 percent of the week to do nothing but work on their innovations, with the caveat being that they are actually required to deliver new products, services or improved ways of doing business. Your company will need to develop an appetite for risk as well as a tolerance for failures.
Connect with customers. Perhaps one of the most obvious yet underutilized resources in our innovation arsenal is the customer. Customers can be one of the richest sources of inspiration, ideas, lessons, product enhancements and more. You can tap into the wealth of knowledge and potential of your customers by engaging them more and creating reliable channels for listening, observing and communicating with them. Then capitalize on these insights in your development process.
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