describe the imageIn Fast Company’s list of 50 Most Innovative Companies which came out recently, not surprisingly 9 of the top 10 companies were technology companies. Does that mean that an innovation culture is the purview of technology companies? That only the brilliant creative minds of the likes of Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg can innovate? That innovation comes in a flash of brilliance and makes a lasting technological impact on society as a whole?

Eagle’s Flight’s recent survey of its client base supports what the research says — most companies are drifting. Across all industries (not just technology), companies view innovation as a strategic imperative, but they are not doing anything to support an innovative culture. 84% of our respondents said that their companies need to be more innovative to remain competitive in their industries. However, most of those same companies don’t formally support innovation. The low priority given to innovation means organizations are slow to create a culture of innovation and therefore cannot quickly commercialize the right ideas, products, or services. As a result, almost 70% of organizations responding had LESS THAN 25% of their revenue from products and services created in the last five years. Only 3% have 75% or more of their products and services created in the last five years.

It begs the question: are they drifting because there’s nothing they can do? Do they think innovation is only for the brilliant creative geniuses, and they don’t have anyone named Einstein or Edison on staff?

Or, are they wrong? Can it be that innovation is, in fact, an important but ordinary business discipline? Fortunately for all our futures, innovation is a business discipline that has the potential to impact businesses in PRACTICAL ways that make them better, faster, cheaper, and / or more customer-focused. The fact is that the discipline of innovation actually exists along a “spectrum” with pure brilliant creativity at one end and the everyday scientific discipline of continuous process improvement at the other.

Innovation is not even statically positioned in the middle of this spectrum. In some applications, innovation techniques look closer to creativity while in others they look much more akin to process improvement.

Given all we know, creating a culture of innovation in today’s fast-moving markets is undoubtedly critical to the future success of your company. Companies that leverage this key business discipline do three things well:

1. Create an internal climate that supports innovation.

2. Teach their people the tools of innovation

3. Establish formal processes for commercializing new and better ways of doing things

How does your company stack up? Is it taking the disciplined approach or is it drifting?