Ask any CEO if they have already established their best product to date. Nine times out of 10 the answer will be “no.”
The secret to cutting-edge innovation is always wanting more. This approach is what keeps startups hungry and agile. It’s also what keeps larger companies open to new ideas–sometimes, ideas from where they least expect it. Setting your company up for success can be as simple as knowing where and how to look for those a-ha moments.
Along with strong leadership, businesses should actively create and collect ideas from various channels. If your company is struggling to innovate, evaluate your company’s current way of fostering great ideas. Then, consider implementing some simple steps you may be overlooking, namely:
Look around your office. Are there closed doors? What about inviting, open meeting spaces? It’s no secret that collaboration is key when it comes to brainstorming, as well as creating open dialogue. As a startup, office space may be the last thing on your mind, but investing in your space can make a world of difference.
Make your office a place where people want to come to work and contribute. Simple additions like adding lunch tables or huddle rooms will show your employees it’s okay to take a break from their cubicle or workstation.
An open workspace is easy to configure and eliminates pretty much all barriers to communication.
As your business grows, new employees will learn and grow based on those they interact with on a daily basis. Create a program for employees with managers outside of their normal day-to-day interaction. Introduce engineers to design and user experience, and marketing with product management.
Every department in your company operates differently, and exposing your team to all areas of the company, as well as to new team members, will foster creative ideas.
You hired every employee for a reason, and company feedback should be collected at every level. Along with mentor programs, hold all-hands meetings and create venues for employees to submit feedback.
Don’t be closed off to the idea of looking outside of your company for great ideas. For example, our parent company Under Armour hosts an annual contest for innovators called Future Show. CEO Kevin Plank is the first to admit that Under Armour has no lock on big ideas. The open entry allows for people from across the world to submit a concept that could support existing products.
Two years ago, the winner devised a special zipper designed for athletes that can be zipped with one hand–it’s now a product called UA MagZip. This fall it will show up on thousands of Under Armour jackets and could possibly be used in all Under Armour outerwear. This open-mindedness is a win-win for both parties.
Whether it’s internally or externally, keep innovation at the forefront of your business and always be open to new ideas–that’s how defining products are made.
—Kevin Callahan cofounded MapMyFitness, Inc. and currently leads the Innovations Lab as the VP of Innovation Strategy.
Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program.