What company comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘innovative’? Uber? Flipboard? Netflix? Airbnb? What makes these companies stand out as the most innovative companies? With markets moving at a breakneck pace, raising the bar through innovation has become critical to success. Innovation does not mean coming up with a breakthrough idea to accommodate change, rather it means bringing change through a culture of innovation.

Companies that fail to cultivate the culture of innovation risk extinction. They either focus on single innovative offering or fail to anticipate the need for future. Some of the companies that lost their edge due to lack of innovation and investment in technology includes Xerox, Blackberry, Border Books, Polaroid and Blockbuster. Businesses cannot afford to stay still in this fast moving era of digital disruption.

Enterprises today operate in a technologically advanced world where they are faced with constant challenges to enhance customer satisfaction, operate efficiently, and reduce costs, while increasing profits. A culture of innovation empowers the workforce to create new products and implement new processes that enhance productivity and provide meaningful differentiation to the business. It helps replace legacy offerings, enabling organization to become future ready.

How can organizations embrace a culture of innovation?

Businesses are beginning to realize that competitive advantage lies in their people. Here are three things organizations can do to create an environment conducive to innovation by fully engaging their workforce:

Encourage employees to add value – Employees should ideally be involved in ideating across various domains of an organization including product, process, policy, and business model development. Allow employees to relentlessly push boundaries, without the fear of failure, to help your organization move beyond traditional products and processes, and create path breaking ideas that ultimately provide competitive advantage.

Enable rewards and testing of new ideas – Organizations should create a culture that allows them to tap into the creativity of the employees top down as well as bottom up, and test promising ideas that can be brought to market. This can happen only when employees are adequately incentivized and provided an environmental structure that is conducive to innovation. Permit them to take time off from their daily tasks, follow their passion, and come up with new ideas.

Inspire employees to develop new skills and take risks – Self-development through skill-based education develops confidence in employees and pushes them to experiment, and successfully create customer centric products, solutions and processes. Push your employees to take smart risks and overcome stagnation. At the same time, be ready to embrace failure.

How does a culture of innovation accelerate success?

Creating a culture of innovation is not as daunting as it sounds and offers big pay offs. Take the case of Thomson Reuters. In early 2014, they established a fund that enabled their internal teams to develop a proof of concept for new ideas. Interested teams completed a two-page application about their idea, the potential market, and the problem that it addressed. Teams that submitted the most fascinating ideas were asked to present them to an innovation investment committee that included senior executives. Within the first month, five winners were announced and promoted on the internal web site. This created a lot of interest and brought in a continuous stream of applications. Several of these ideas have been prototyped and piloted among the company’s customers.

There are several benefits that businesses stand to gain by promoting a culture of innovation:

Enhanced customer satisfaction – Today’s technology friendly customers like intelligent and interactive products. By allowing employees to take calculated risks, organizations can create new products and designs, improve or add new features for increased customer satisfaction.

Improved quality and reduced costs – Continuous innovation in the company improves the quality of product and reduces the cost. Harnessing new technologies drives the creation of superior products that require less iteration, thereby increasing cost efficiencies. Moreover, continuous innovation shortens the product development cycle and dramatically reduces costs.

Increased profits and efficiency – New ideas and business models help organizations increase efficiency of operations and enhance revenues. Employees who add value to the existing products, service and solutions help create a competitive advantage to the organization.

Superior employee engagement – Engaged employees are 38% more productive than the ones who are not engaged. A culture of innovation enhances employee engagement, in turn, enhancing the productivity of the enterprise.

Become future ready

While there is no magic formula to build a culture of innovation, companies can make progress by taking consistent steps to increase employee collaboration and engagement. Leadership teams who proactively identify and take down barriers to collaboration and engagement will help drive change and innovation, thereby future proofing their companies and ensuring success.