Do you anticipate and dread the word “innovation” like it’s the high dive at the pool when you were a kid? We get it. It’s a tough question. How do you find the time to innovate when you don’t have the time?
Sure, you know you need to innovate. Talking about it is easy. And we’ve heard it all before: companies who innovate outlast the competition; they’re change-makers and disruptors.
But the truth is, no one really likes disruption.
That’s a dirty lie, you say? Listen close. Our conscious brains love disruption, but that little reptile brain squeaks away in the back of your mind. It says, “the devil I know is better than the one I don’t,” and “I’ll innovate after I…” and then inserts a laundry list of everyday responsibilities and success numbers.
Trusting that reptile brain is going to cost you. To use a construction term, the soft cost—or anything that’s not an actual “construction” expense—of putting innovation on the back burner outweighs the hard cost you stare down week to week in your quarterly reports. So, while you may not have time for innovation, you need to make time.
If you don’t, you’ll waste resources every time your team works to convince a client you can keep up with the competition. You’ll watch money fly out the door when your employees use antiquated processes because you didn’t make time to come up with—and entertain—the big ideas.
We understand the challenges. It requires a culture change. You worry about whether or not employees will “waste time.” The numbers weigh on you.
But make a shift, little by little, and here’s what happens.
Innovation keeps you ahead of what your customers need and not just in-step. The classic (apocryphal or not) Henry Ford quote, “If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said faster horses,” is telling.
When your services are good enough, you may see regular profits. But you’ll live with the constant fear of disruption. Someone, somewhere, will introduce a product or service that solves a problem your customers didn’t know they had and you’ll be left scrambling.
Or if it’s not a competitor, it’s internal. Think about how many of your daily responsibilities you do just because that’s the way it’s always been. How much time could you save by having an innovation culture?
Take IntelAgree, for example. This platform has the power to overhaul the way a business handles contracts and agreements. Instead of their employees wasting time on laborious agreement sequences, innovative AI does all that work for them. It frees up their teams to make informed decisions without losing valuable data points in the contract process.
AI handles the details, and a company can set aside valuable time for staff to work on something less time-consuming. So the team doesn’t worry about missing critical data during the agreement process, and leaders don’t worry how long it takes for personnel to close the deal. No more scrambling.
And here’s the thing: IntelAgree didn’t happen by accident. We understand that innovation is the key to creating the strongest product, and that’s why we collaborate with industry experts, internal team members, and our customers to iterate on and improve the platform. It’s collaborative and it’s challenging, and that’s just how we like it.
Innovation is a critical part of scaling your business. Back to the agreements issue, how many people can you have on a team to handle each stage of converting your customer? If you didn’t say “infinite,” you may have a scaling problem.
IntelAgree helps businesses scale beyond the reach of standard contracts processing. Now, companies can close agreements faster and more efficiently as AI learns the sequence and their customer behavior. When your business grows, every structure you have in place strains with the change. Innovation eases that strain.
Staying ahead of what your customers want and need also gives you more significant scaling potential. If you’re a startup, that’s good news. You might have your MVP now, but later on, each successive innovation win builds a more prominent company.
Innovation also helps established companies expand into other markets or chip away at the competition. That’s why staying ahead of what customers need is critical regardless of where your business is right now.
Start Building A Culture of Innovation
You can’t find time for innovation. That never works. You have to make time for it.
This culture change doesn’t mean throwing all the desks out of the window and working on bean bag chairs or mandating office volleyball tournaments (unless you want). But it does mean that you embrace a few things.
Waste Time As An Investment
First, waste time like a pro. Employees can’t innovate on demand. They’ll feel overwhelmed if you tack on innovation on top of their existing responsibilities. You have to change the way you think about wasting time.
Set aside a specific time during the week to allow them to brainstorm ideas about a new block of your SaaS model. Experiment with a change-up in a part of the job that everyone hates and tries to pass off. The time you spend “wasting” might spark your next innovation.
Give Employees Leeway To Learn and Experiment
Next—it’s only natural that you take risks in innovation culture. And while you may feel the pressure of failure in your leadership role, your employees worry about job security. So they need to know that when you take on risk, failure won’t come back to haunt them.
Failure tells you how to move forward. Your customers can’t always articulate what they need, and failure gives you just as much insight into their desires and pain points as success does. Faster horses, and all.
Innovation isn’t a hands-off approach. We’re talking calculated risk here. That means you involve yourself in the process and separate calculated risk failures from work ethic. After all, if you want to attract and keep your best talent, embracing both success and failure is critical.
Communicate the Big Picture
Innovation doesn’t always look like disruption. Sometimes it’s incremental. Companies that focus solely on disruptive change are missing out on half the picture (and vice versa). What’s important is the mission.
Communicate a clear mission to your staff, and whether the change is tiny or enormous, it aligns with your company’s purpose. When you clearly define who you are as a company and where you want to be, both big and small changes help get you there.
Partner with the Right People
Finally—sometimes, you need a little extra push from a third party to keep you accountable when it comes to innovation. For that reason, choose vendors and business partners who are pushing the limits in their industry or who are trying something you’d never be able to do alone.
This culture of innovation partnership works—trust us. Take IntelAgree’s early adopters. They’ve committed to participating in an innovation lab in order to test and provide feedback on our contract management software platform. They get a say in the product road map and access to a team of innovators who want to make major waves in contract management services. We get industry insight from leaders who know their stuff, and we end up with a majorly disruptive (yes, we said it) product.
See? It’s a win-win.
Making Time For Innovation
This week, try giving employees 20% of their time to work on a pet project to improve the company. If it works for Google, it might work for you. Allow them to work like startups and create a new business opportunity. Or look at your company culture and see where innovation time logically fits within your day or week.
We think the results might surprise you.