What defines an innovative company?

Have you ever had an innovative idea? Do you have the means to carry it out? Do you enjoy the competitive advantages of your company? Are you one of them? These are some of the questions we must ask ourselves when we undertake an innovation project.

One of the tools for maintaining business competitiveness is innovation, which is presented in different ways, as a change that allows a task to be carried out more efficiently, such as creating a new product/service, or as a change in relations with the environment.

The image that has become popular of innovative companies suggests playful, professional, creative places, multidisciplinary work teams, operational flexibility, flexible working hours, etc. Such characteristics seem to be common in companies such as Google, Twitter, Facebook and other companies in the IT sector.

In this industry, innovation is an explicitly defined process, led by specialized managers and evaluated in terms of effectiveness and efficiency.

The innovative company designs policies, strategies and actions that allow the identification of activities to generate sustainable competitive advantages.

Some characteristics of Innovative Organizations (I.O.) are:

  1. Innovation in the selection process: It is clear that if companies want innovative ideas from their employees, they must seek the potential for innovation from the recruitment process. The most suitable and valuable people are chosen for the innovation projects, the most representative leaders are chosen, who are experts of the organization in the area to be improved. For example, Richard Branson has made innovation one of the six key characteristics that are evaluated when looking for new employees. To be hired at Virgin, you must demonstrate a passion for new ideas, you must make your creativity apparent and show a history of different thinking.
  2. Commitment to continuous innovation: Necessary in this type of organization, even though some only commit to disruptive innovation, that which only occurs in a certain period and with a certain purpose. It is vital to carry out improvement actions that involve the whole company. Apple, is for the fourth consecutive year the most innovative company in the world, from the Macintosh they have not stopped, through the iPod, iPhone, iPad, and many intermediate products. This company has been strongly marked by giving a different solution, and mainly, integrating all its products in a really effective way. Google is not far behind either. It has known how to adapt and create products that can be integrated with incredible ease. From the creation of the most used search engine in the world, through Gmail, Android, to a whole range of advertising for all types of companies called Google AdSense.
  3. Application of new technologies: A key feature is the portfolio of innovation projects. Such portfolios are essential in these companies and are subject to analysis and evaluation in the formal processes of strategic planning for technological creations. Dropbox, for example, has new tools such as Saver, Chooser and Datastore, which make it possible to exploit the potential of the cloud and maximize the synchronization of different devices. On the other hand, Nike created an application to access an index of materials that classifies them according to their impact on the environment. Thus, it was possible to reduce the use of hazardous substances in the manufacture of products such as clothing and footwear.
  4. Close relationship between managers and employees: By creating organizational processes that reflect their personal behaviors, they have incorporated their innovative DNA into their organizations. Few people know that after he was expelled from Apple in 1985, Steve Jobs was active in Pixar, which financed and produced the famous movie Toy Story. This was the first film developed entirely on a computer. To this day we are still impressed with his titles, but they would certainly never have been the same without the innovation factor, imposed by Steve Jobs and the rest of the company.

We have to see innovation as a continuous management process in which we find the next steps:

  • Signal Processing: Monitoring and searching the changing environment, detecting potential innovations, and producing change for survival. The idea is to process these signals, assimilate them and make the most of them, visualize them, extract the most significant ones and then shape these ideas into a Strategic Plan.
  • Strategy: Where are we now? Where do we want to go? How do we get there? Our innovation strategy must establish how to use knowledge to develop new products to create brand value.
  • Resource Allocation: Indicate which resources will have to be allocated in this change process. It is vital to make the most efficient and correct use of these, managing to develop new competitive advantages.
  • Implementation: Develop schemes and structures. It involves management activities, project planning, technology configuration and organization. This is where the real hard work of change is done and where we must manage the critical aspects of it.
  • Learning and re-innovation: What will be the next step? Are we achieving the established objectives? In this phase we have to assess whether we have been successful or not. We must learn from our experience, both from successes and failures. It is time to learn, but also to unlearn those things we have done wrong in order to understand where we are going and what the change and the right path is.