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Innovation does not have to be a ‘big bang’ event. (Thinkstock)
Innovation does not have to be a ‘big bang’ event. (Thinkstock)

LEADERSHIP LAB

Innovation does not have to be a ‘big bang’ event Add to ...

True innovation doesn’t always need to come from radical changes, disruptive technologies or completely overhauling the way your business operates.

Sometimes, it’s about the little things.

We use the word innovation a lot around our offices at Salesforce.com but we like to differentiate between disruptive innovation and continuous innovation. While our company does both, the latter is what helps drive a truly innovative culture and it’s fuelled by continuously trying new things.

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At the end of the day it’s simple; innovation is not a concept. It’s an action. This means it takes more than just theorizing about something or forming a committee. You have to actually go out and try new ideas to make something happen.

There is a Japanese term, Kaizen, that essentially translates to “good change” and refers to a philosophy which focuses on continuous improvement. Applying this philosophy is the key to leading an innovative team every day.

Here are some good places to start:

Innovation is not always a flying saucer.

There is a misconception that innovation arrives in the form of some amazing and unique technology or revolutionary product that is the first of its kind. This can be true in some cases. But it’s not the whole truth.

Innovation is rarely a big bang event. In fact, a recent survey Salesforce.com commissioned with IDC found that 65 per cent of innovative Canadian businesses said their company is trying to change an industry norm or improve on how things are done in their industry in some small way.

Remember, the key to constant innovation is trying new things on a small scale before implementing them company wide. These small improvements, which can sometimes grow into fantastic change, are what ultimately lead to an innovative experience.

The brands we identify as the most innovative in the world didn’t get there overnight. There were a lot of risks, small changes, failures and successes along the way.

Give an A+ for failing.

If employees find themselves getting in trouble every time they fail, eventually they will be too afraid to take risks and try something new. Instead, encourage an innovative culture by celebrating failures.

Celebrate the fact that your employee came up with a new idea. Celebrate that they took action to bring their idea to life. And celebrate that your whole team has learned something from the failure.

Innovation requires experimentation and sometimes experiments fail. But this is the learning process and how good leaders can inspire employees to think in new ways.

You don’t have to be the first.

This one is important. A lot of people think being innovative means being the first to do something. This type of thinking is crippling and will prevent you from innovating within your own company.

Instead, learn from other innovative businesses and be inspired to make changes within your own organization based on what you’ve learned. Your team doesn’t need to be the first in the world to do something. Doing it for the first time within your organization is innovative.

Daniel Debow (@ddebow) is a senior vice-president at Salesforce.com (@salesforce), and was a co-founder of Rypple and Workbrain.

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