5 innovation lessons from top-performing companies

Never stop improving. High-performing companies are relentlessly focused on improving their performance through innovation, whether that’s aimed at accelerating processes, tightening workflows or clarifying communications. How do they succeed? By creating a culture that encourages exploration and experimentation, facilitates open communication with customers and employees, and drives innovation from both the top-down and bottom-up. At a higher level, the company’s senior team recognizes innovation as a key source of competitive advantage.

Seek out radical innovation on a smaller scale. What makes an innovation “radical” has nothing to do with size and everything to do with impact. Radical innovation is about breaking through perceived limitations to fundamentally change the game. For example, introducing a new product or capability, along with a new message to market, can serve as radical innovation on a smaller scale. Driving disruption can lead to tremendous rewards, but it requires tough decision-making and strong leadership on the part of the CEO.

If something breaks, use innovative thinking to fix it. All companies have to cope with the reality that, at some point, some part of their business is going to break or go wrong. What separates the high-performing companies from the pack is how they react to that challenge. They assess the situation quickly. They pivot rapidly to an innovative solution. They rally teams around the goals of that solution. By contrast, low-performing companies are quick to assign blame. They wait for others to fix the problem. They use outdated solutions to address new challenges.

Picture your worst-case scenario. What would you do if Amazon announced a solution that targeted your customers and made your go-to-market model irrelevant? More likely, what would you do if a competitor acquired a smaller player and boxed you in? What if they launched a new product or hired a superstar from your best region? Prepare for these worst-case scenarios by working through them in advance with your team. Set up a one-day offsite exercise where you proactively address these scenarios and brainstorm innovative solutions.

Leverage the relentless pace of change. Respect the fact that there is no status quo anymore, and that everything changes all the time. As a CEO, the question you must ask yourself is: Do I recognize, anticipate and leverage the current pace of change, or do I wait for a crisis to hit that will force me to innovate under pressure? In either case, innovation is required for survival and growth. Better to choose the former.

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