What do you think your organization’s innovation index is? Where would you fall in comparison to others in your community and in your industry?
It’s a question I often wonder myself as the Chief Technology Officer at Marco while connecting with my peers, attending conferences and reading reports like the Global Innovation Index (GII). The Global Innovation Index ranks the innovation of 141 countries and economies worldwide based on 79 indicators related to human capital and research, infrastructure, institutions, market sophistication and business sophistication.
The United States is among the five most innovative nations in the world, according to the 2015 report. Switzerland (No. 1), the United Kingdom, Sweden and the Netherlands also are in that top pack. The United States performs best in the output of quality scientific publications while Hong Kong dominates in new business creation and Malaysia in high tech exports. (Check out the infographic)
While some countries are increasing their innovation capacity according to the report, others are struggling. The same seems to be true in business. No matter the industry, you can find organizations that are embracing innovation and thriving and others that continue to fall behind.
How do you innovate?
Part of my job at Marco is to wake up every day thinking about what might be next in the world of technology. Over the 17 years that I have been at Marco, we have re-invented ourselves several times, from a typewriter shop to cloud services. I am always interested in hearing how others are innovating and changing their businesses, too.
I recently had the opportunity to meet with a couple fellow innovators. One of them is the CTO of a multinational $3 billion organization. Yes, I was all ears. I followed that meeting by attending an industry conference where the keynote was on innovation.
At its core, innovation is about introducing new ideas, methods or products. Sounds easy, right? So, what does it really look like and how do we do it?
Here are a few key steps to take to drive innovation:
- Think three years out.
Information and technology are accelerating at a rapid rate. That raises the question of how far can you actually plan to be effective? Three years seems to be the answer. The CTO of the $3 billion technology enterprise is already working on 2019. He keeps his head focused on strategy three years ahead; this year is already too late to change.
- Don’t do it alone.
Build a culture of innovation. When I joined Marco, the IT team had a small group of people. Today, we are among the fastest-growing technology providers in the nation. Getting there takes lots of ideas and execution. We now have a technology steering committee that has representation from each department. The more ideas you have, the better chance you have at finding the right one.
- Prepare to fail – fast.
Not all the ideas will work. Don’t let fear stand in the way of your employees speaking up or trying. At Marco, we’ve embraced failures and operate under the motto “fail forward faster.” (Read a blog on the topic by our CEO).
- Focus on automation.
What can you automate? That has been the key to the success of that $3 billion operation – and on a smaller scale, for us at Marco. We’re constantly asking – and answering – this question. We have automated the meter readings on copiers for toner alerts that then automatically ship toner to clients when they’re close to running out. We’ve also automated our copier deliveries through SharePoint and our service call flows, to name a few.
- Move intelligence to the edge.
This is my favorite and a phrase I learned from the keynote speaker. Essentially, it means move the decision-making and power to where the customer is. That’s what Kayak did for consumer travel and Uber has done for “taxi” rides. I am going to dig into this concept more in my next blog.
While there is not an international report that analyzes and tracks the Global Innovation Index for organizations yet, I am confident that those that take these five steps would rank high. Innovation is a process that all starts with thinking differently about what you do and more importantly, how you do it. What will you innovate today?