In the business world, the dizzying pace of technological innovation can feel daunting, to say the least. From blockchain technology to the cutting-edge use of artificial intelligence and robotics, staying ahead or just keeping up with the competition has become an ongoing challenge for many industries of all types and sizes.
And research appears to support this. In a 2018 Conference Board survey of over 1,000 business leaders, C-suite executives were asked to name issues requiring special focus in the coming year. Interestingly, the second-top concern cited by CEOs and human resource officers was developing new business models to accommodate disruptive technologies. So what was their strategy? It revolved around innovation. Specifically, the goal is to “Create a culture of innovation that encourages cooperation across functions and business units and promotes risk-taking,” according to the survey.
It goes on to state that “Less than half of CEOs (48%) see their organization as a technology leader in their industries. Moreover, less than 10% of CEOs globally say they are ‘extremely satisfied’ with their organization’s ability to innovate.” Finding the right metrics to track innovation can be a challenge in itself.
In a separate report, global corporate executives and board members voiced similar concerns. The report, “Executive Perspectives on Top Risks for 2018” by Protiviti and North Carolina State University, identified the two top risks for their organizations as rapid speed of disruptive innovation and resistance to change.
Wherever possible, I believe companies should consider becoming early adopters of new technologies. Ideally, company leaders should commit to act and quickly learn from their mistakes. Here are my five tips to help overcome resistance to change and promote innovation:
- Partner with firms that can aid in innovation and foster learning. You may discover ways to take advantage of complementary strengths. I’ve seen this firsthand in the banking industry as old-economy financial services bring resources and scale to their pairings with young, nimble fintech startups.
- Stay vigilant. Look for a firm with a strong track record of identifying the latest innovative technology and digital trends and the ability to evaluate their impact on organizations. Despite the popular Silicon Valley mantra of “fail fast and fail often,” business leaders tend to always want to stack the odds in their favor as much as possible. Business acumen and knowledge matter.
- Invest in your company. Implement companywide innovation initiatives, sponsor hackathons and establish innovation groups throughout your company.
- Value innovation. Creating a culture of innovation comes from the top. Have leaders champion hackathons and internal challenges to allow rank-and-file employees to innovate and solve real-life business problems.
- Don’t seek perfection. No one gets it right the first time. Be willing to test, get feedback from real customers, and refine. That’s the only way you’ll know if a new product really solves a business challenge.
Failure to keep up with the rapid pace of change might place a company in the position of playing catch-up rather than taking the lead. Don’t be burdened by legacy technology. Be willing to experiment and seek out creative partners who can help move you past the finish line.
This article first appeared in Forbes.