Creativity, Shaking Up the Enterprise: Tips on Innovation

Tips for infusing your company with creativity, from the big guys.

Creativity drives innovation. That’s not news to anyone in tech, software, or any other industry. But there’s been a significant embracing of think-tank approaches to innovation in top-tier companies. It’s an investment in creativity that all small businesses can use as a source of inspiration. IT innovation is an essential part to remaining competitive today. Done on a small or large scale, it has to be done within every business, yours included. Computerworld put it this way:

With globalization, changing customer behavior, the spread of consumer technologies and cloud capabilities lowering the barrier of entry to new competitors, organizations are increasingly looking to technology-induced innovations to distinguish themselves in the market.

Computerworld did an extended series on some top-tier enterprise companies, filled to the brim with relevant tips to make creativity possible. Take inspiration from these major companies and the ideas and approaches they are using to get creative in enterprise.

CapitalOne’s approach: small works.

Capital One logoThe company set up three “innovation labs” in three U.S. cities chosen for their forward-thinking technological cultures to build up new plans and ideas for the financial services institution. And it’s not just about cool technology for them, but about finding the solutions that will delight and make a difference for their customers. They do it with innovation lab teams including talent across departments, from brand managers to data analysts to software designers.

And they operate with a crucial reminder to small companies: this innovation lab can be recreated at any size. CapitalOne CTO Monique Shivanandan emphasizes that this approach is more about establishing the right ecosystem for creativity than building the physical space.

“You could get a conference room, put a paper sign up and designate it as ‘the lab,’ and you’ll have a structure in place,” she says. “Even with just a handful of people, you can foster a culture of creativity, as long as they’re not operating in a vacuum but with the right folks across and outside of the business, to drive results that are valuable to the business and its customers.”

Grange Insurance: passion is a requirement.

Grange Insurance logoMany smaller companies with less budget to devote to R&D might conclude that nothing can be done on the creative front – at least nothing at the kind of level of larger industry players.

But you can. It simply requires passion on the part of the team, a commitment to the product and goals of the company. Grange Insurance CIO Michael Fergang explains it like this:

“We will never have the capacity to support the demand,” he says. “It takes ingenuity of the individuals and their managers to reshuffle their work. We’re not Google, where people get every fifth day to innovate.”

His sentiments sounds familiar? Almost no companies are Google, with the budget to simply buy time to innovate on a regular basis. And yet, they are making it work, by honing in on specific goals and really utilizing team and company time wisely.

Creativity comes through in strategic combinations of hard work and passion. Get your team on board with both essential ingredients. (And if your team isn’t passionate, it is imperative that you address that too! Find out why, where, and how to foster morale and increase excitement.)

Everyone agrees: it’s healthy to diversify.

MasterCard logoThat means first of all, it’s okay to ask for outside help, and seek the opinions and expertise of experts that have different backgrounds.

Crucially, it is possible to have a set of innovators, working on a think-tank style project, who know too much about their industry, and their product. It can be supremely beneficial, says MasterCard Chief Innovation Officer Garry Lyons, to seek variegated talents and skill sets. “If you know too much about a domain, you either start with the premise that something isn’t possible or you can only incrementally improve what already exists.”

That last point is especially important to recognize and react to in today’s pace of innovation and within modern business structure. A range of talent delivers tenfold in the diversity of perspective, and the many angles that a seemingly simple question or problem can be answered. Think there’s nowhere left to improve in your product? Nothing left to talk about? Nothing to shake up? Invite in some new minds and that’ll change immediately.

A diverse team, augmented often with outside insight, in-depth creative brainstorming sessions, and a larger goal of working towards innovation with passion at the core of the process might just be the perfectly painted picture of The Creative Enterprise.

Now, go make it happen!

What methods have you used to boost creativity and brainstorm for new products, techniques and approaches in your industry? Share the love and insight below.