In today’s rapidly changing world, perhaps no trait is more important for a company than innovation. It’s what helps some companies develop advantages over their competitors.
At the same time, a lack of innovation can cause other companies to slowly fall behind in the market. Even a company like Apple — widely regarded as one of the world’s most innovative companies — could be at risk from competitors if it isn’t constantly improving its products.
This article will examine how future business leaders, such as graduates of Radford University’s online Master of Business Administration (MBA) program, can foster a spirit of innovation that will help them thrive in today’s business environment.
Where Does Innovation Stem From?
- Unexpected successes or failures
- Technological advancements or opportunities
- Market changes or opportunities
- Research to improve performance
With that said, it’s nearly impossible for a CEO, founder or manager to keep an eye on each area simultaneously. It’s also too big of a task for one person to constantly have all the right ideas. Instead, it’s much more beneficial to incentivize employees to pursue entrepreneurial pursuits within the business.
Creating a Culture of Innovation
Innovation is usually associated with small startups working on new ideas, and it can be difficult for larger, established companies to maintain this same level of innovation. This is mainly because it’s easy for employees to become stagnant in their assigned roles without giving thought to the company’s larger objectives. Since employees are also critical for driving innovation within a company, it becomes the manager’s responsibility to create a culture of innovation and bring out the best in their workforce.
Embracing Agile Business Models
Many managers make the mistake of isolating employees into one single role. However, to better unleash the innovative power of their employees, putting them in open-format environments is much more effective. Doing so allows everyone to contribute.
Here are three ways to organize teams to help unleash innovation:
- Use small teams: When working on projects, keep teams small enough that each member can collaborate simultaneously on a task. This structure helps open the floor so that everyone can offer ideas.
- Remove hierarchies: In a similar vein, companies should avoid hierarchies. These are known to stem the flow of information. Instead, employ meetings that allow employees to volunteer thoughts and ideas.
- Work in sprints: Conduct work in a short, rapid spring of about two weeks. After that, have the team check in and then incorporate their feedback.
Additionally, managers need to understand that each employee has a unique personality and strengths. By mix-and-matching these personalities, managers can help brew up innovation. According to McKinsey & Company, a team must have four key attributes to thrive:
- Vision: At least one employee on a team needs to have the ability to identify opportunities and encourage others to pursue them. This also applies to articulating a compelling value proposition for the product or service.
- Collaboration: People with strong teamwork skills are critical to project success. They help bring cohesion to the group.
- Learning: Each team also needs individuals who can quickly pursue new ideas and incorporate lessons. They may not act as team leaders, but they will help push the project forward.
- Execution: The final trait — usually reserved for the team’s leader — is quick yet realistic decision-making, or execution of plans and strategy.
The most innovative teams will incorporate a range of employees who each possess at least one of these traits. By working in a group, this combination of employees can achieve more than any single employee could.
However, the theories behind what drives employees to innovate constantly change. For this reason, many upcoming business leaders will pursue an advanced degree — such as an MBA — to learn the latest schools of thought.
Preparing for the Workplace
Some advanced graduate programs, like Radford’s online MBA, have specialized courses that deal with innovation. For example, Radford’s program offers a course called High Performance Innovation: Innovative People, Processes, and Organizations. This course shows students how to retain and keep innovative employees, create a culture that encourages innovation and convert innovations into successful business models.
MBA programs that don’t specifically specialize in innovation are still highly valued by employers because MBAs teach students creative problem-solving. According to the Graduate Management Admission Council, creativity and problem-solving are two of the most important skills employers seek. Radford University’s online MBA program gives students both the foundational business skills and specific area knowledge to innovate in a number of spaces.
Ultimately, innovation is about finding new solutions to modern problems. Fortunately for upcoming business leaders, creative problem-solving can be honed and improved like any other skill. An advanced business degree can give professionals the training and experience they need to find successful, innovative solutions.
Learn more about Radford University’s online Master of Business Administration program.