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Future-Proof Yourself with Sustainable Innovation

Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - 11:45
Sustainable Innovation

What is Sustainable Innovation?

On his very first day, a junior designer for Airbnb was asked to pitch a new idea for the popular lodging site. The employee responded by changing an icon in the company’s mobile app from a star to a heart. The result? It boosted customer engagement by 30 percent and inspired the creation of a new wish list product.

What is Innovation

This is sustainable innovation at its finest. Big, bold changes don’t always yield the most impact. It’s the small and simple shifts in business strategy—the continual reimagining and repositioning—that are often the most powerful. They’re what make a company more resilient in a constantly changing marketplace.

What are the Keys to Sustainable Innovation?

Innovate with Disruption

First and foremost, it requires a culture that embraces change instead of the more traditional “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach.

In order to support sustainable innovation, a company has to continually experiment and take risks and to be proactive—versus reactive—within the marketplace. In fact, choosing to do nothing is far riskier than staying on the move. It’s the testing of new ideas and learning how to quickly course correct that enables success. Shell has discovered through its idea-generating Empower program for employees that the greatest barrier to innovation is a lack of risk tolerance and an overall resistance to change.

The second key to sustainable innovation? Create a framework that allows employees, and even customers, to freely share ideas. It’s not about having more time, money, and manpower. It’s about strategic alignment and, again, having a culture that supports innovation.

According to Booz & Company, sustainable innovation comes from a company’s ability to:

  • Hear partners’ voices
  • Empower staff to speak up
  • Transform insight into action
  • Inspire action/leaders at every level

For example, whenever EMC2 is trying to solve a difficult challenge, the global IT leader holds innovation contests among its employees. As a result, many of the most successful ideas and ventures have come from not only contest winners, but from those who were simply allowed the chance to speak up.

Target is also seeing huge success through sustainable innovation. For instance, instead of opening up more box stores in suburban areas, it’s been recently focused on half-sized stores in major metropolitan markets. These mini Targets allow fast-moving urban shoppers to grab necessities and pay quickly. They also support the local economy by carrying products from area vendors. Overall, this innovative strategy has enabled Target to double its number of city stores in less than a year.  

To learn more about how your organization can also achieve success through sustainable innovation, check out our recent webinar with Scott Steinberg, CEO of TechSavvy Global: Leading with Innovation:

Webinar: How to Future-Proof Yourself, Fearlessly Innovate, and Succeed in the New Normal

Innovation Webinar


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