By Zoe Aitken

Have you ever wondered what Silicon Valley’s fastest growing and most innovative companies do differently to the rest of us? A tour of Silicon Valley reveals how the best innovators operate. Here are five key lessons …

Innovation is not a separate team

Rather than separate out the innovation function, innovation was just ‘business-as-usual’ for these organisations. In fact, they didn’t even call it ‘innovation’, instead their whole business was set up for growth and an innovation mindset permeated throughout.

This is a huge shift away from what we typically see in Australia, where innovation is often bolted on as a separate function. The risk with this, however, is that innovation becomes compartmentalised. The challenge, therefore, is to think about ways to encourage an innovation mindset that spans across your entire organisation.

Hungry leaders drive growth

One way to drive an organisation-wide innovation mindset is to start with the leadership team. The leaders that we visited had a huge hunger for growth. They continually reinforced their strategic priorities, got hands-on with innovation, and role-modelled innovation behaviours they wanted to see in others. This sent a very clear signal to the rest of the organisation that innovation and growth were a priority.

Think about the messages that your leadership team is sending out about innovation and growth. Do they send a clear message that they are a priority?

They are vision-led and values-driven

All of the Silicon Valley organisations that we visited had a clear and compelling vision. Their vision was brought to life through customer and employee stories and was used as a way to spark employee passion. The vision was constantly reinforced by the leadership team and employees recalled it almost like a mantra. It was also supported by a carefully crafted set of values designed to create a growth-focused culture.

The take-out is that your vision and values can play a key role in setting the scene for growth. Think about your organisational vision and values; are they tokenistic or purposeful and help support your growth ambitions?

They systematise getting close to the customer

We all know that customer-centricity is key to growth. But these organisations took this a step further and systematised the way they sought customer feedback so that it became habitual. They had fast and frictionless customer feedback loops that fed straight into product development and innovation processes.

Think about how you are connecting with your customers. How could you systematise your customer feedback loops to ensure customer-centricity becomes a standard way of working?

They don’t fall in love with their ideas

Getting too attached to your ideas is one way to blow out timelines and launch ideas that don’t deliver value. The antidote to this is to fall in love with the customer problem you’re solving rather than the idea. These organisations were masters at this. Pivoting and killing ideas was common practice. They weren’t afraid to frequently change course based on early customer feedback. Killing ideas was part of their culture; it wasn’t viewed as failure and nor was it personal.

Reflect on whether you get too attached to your ideas and whether this is hindering the quality of your innovation. Are you open to changing course? Is a fear of failure stopping you from being more disruptive?

These organisations are extremely purposeful in how they approach growth and innovation. And it shows in their results. Adopting some of these lessons just might help you fast-track your own growth goals. Why not give them a go?

Zoe Aitken is the Head of Consulting at leading innovation consultancy Inventium and has over 15 years’ experience helping organisations grow.