Skip to main content
//empty //empty

Striking the balance between innovation and efficiency

iStockPhoto/iStockPhoto

Innovation is prized in companies these days. But so is efficiency. And sometimes the two clash, especially when innovative moves spark big changes and uncertainty.

In the book Relentless Innovation, North Carolina-based consultant Jeffrey Phillips offers seven steps for leaders to find the perfect balance between efficiency and innovation:

Top-down focus

Story continues below advertisement

The first factor is a strong focus on innovation from the top of the organization. Reinforce this with stated goals that are consistently measured. It's at the top that decisions are made about allocating capital and meeting financial targets, and senior managers must take the lead.

"The emphasis on innovation therefore must be at least as large as the emphasis on efficiency and effectiveness, and that emphasis must be constantly reinforced, through strategy, communications, executive action, and cultural and operating model change," Mr. Phillips writes.

Be open to new tools, methods

You won't succeed if you try to seed innovation in only one business area or product line. Even worse, he says, is trying to lock the innovation team into one method or approach for innovation, using a single time horizon. You need lots of tools and methods, a variety of time lines, and middle managers across the organization primed for innovation.

Stress the real goal

Treat innovation as a revenue opportunity, not a cost structure. "Innovation won't be successful until the team understands that the ultimate goal of the effort is to create revenue, growth, and opportunity," he stresses.

Become more 'plastic'

Story continues below advertisement

Brain scientists talk about plasticity – the advantages of being open, flexible and nimble. The same holds for innovation. Innovators must steer clear of "silos" within your organization, or even being restrained to sharing ideas only within its walls. They must build broad, horizontal networks.

Keep experimenting

In many companies, experiments are carefully designed and developed over a long period of time to validate a hunch or a theory. Wrong! Try lots of experiments and prototyping. Consider the effort as being as much about discovery and new insights as it is about validating internal perspectives and theories.

Embrace patience

Innovation requires patience, as does creating the systems and culture to make innovation happen. It also requires will. "Inertia and resistance, while subtle, are far stronger than your management team might believe," Mr. Phillips warns.

Plan a Cortez moment

Story continues below advertisement

When Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez landed in the New World, he scuttled his ships so his conquistadors knew there was no turning back. You may need a similarly dramatic moment when you spell out management's commitment to innovation and the targets you have developed.



Special to The Globe and Mail

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies