Good leaders seek out every opportunity to inspire growth, energy and creativity among their people.
It’s a formidable challenge given the myriad of factors at work today that stifle creative energy. Fear of failure, time and cost pressures, and comfort with the status quo all erode a company’s ability to innovate.
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO CREATE A CULTURE OF INNOVATION IN THE WORKPLACE?
In my experience, it requires both letting go of entrenched approaches and structures, as well as embracing new growth aspirations and mindsets.
Think about the creative energy of a child. Children have little fear of the unknown, and are totally open to new experiences … for them, it’s all about curiosity, experimentation, unbridled energy and discovery.
How do we replicate that creative process … that intense desire to learn, problem-solve, innovate and grow … in our day-to-day work settings?
For the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, growth and innovation required building on the values that made our company unique, while introducing a whole new way of thinking about our future. By incorporating the principles of Breakthrough at every level of our company, we are transforming our culture, innovating for the future and achieving new levels of growth.
Looking back at the late 1990s, the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company was at a critical juncture in our history. We were the world’s largest manufacturer of chewing gum with annual revenues in excess of $2 billion. We dominated the chewing gum category, but we were not competing outside our niche and we were missing out on key opportunities in the broader confections category.
If we were to strengthen our core chewing gum business and expand beyond gum, we needed to redefine our vision and transform our organization. Our goal was sustainable, generational growth – and the key to achieving that growth was an improved capacity to innovate at every level. It was vitally important for our company to foster a culture of innovation among our people, and to help them understand that innovation was inextricably linked to business growth.
I first met Dr. Bart Sayle in November, 2000. He worked with me and my leadership team as we developed our vision to change the trajectory of our growth, and redefine the scope of our business and lead our transformation.
Through the Breakthrough approach, Bart has helped us shift away from a “status quo” approach to business to a “can do” corporate culture, where every associate feels empowered and has the ability to impact our future.
Breakthrough helped us to:
- transform the mindset of our people,
- accept, lead and manage change,
- become more intentional in putting our business on a new, growth trajectory,
- go beyond intentions, to actually applying and executing new systems and ideas,
- listen to our consumers and our own associates in a different and more powerful way to get deeper insights
- broaden our strategy based on a vision of a new future
- and translate innovations into workable, marketable ideas that drive growth.
Of course, innovation goes beyond creative product ideas. Innovation is the art, science and discipline of finding or creating and converting new ideas into business growth.” To Bart It is “a culture and a way of thinking … and it should filter down into the way you recruit, develop and motivate people, improve processes, structure your organization, and develop and launch new products”.
Transformational growth also requires more than just innovation. We learned early on that a culture of innovation must be supported by a strong vision, a team-oriented collaborative atmosphere, a passion for understanding consumers, long-term innovation investments, and remarkable people.
One of the most important lessons we learned along the way was the need to help our people see the future, believe in their abilities to make it happen, and follow through with action.
Nothing has been more rewarding than to see our company growth open the door to the personal growth of our people. The real Breakthrough comes when talented individuals come together to create something extraordinary. Dr. Bart Sayle has guided us through this transformation of our people, our culture, our processes and the trajectory of our business growth!
This article was written as the foreword to Riding the Blue Train.