As CEO, you are in the driver’s seat when it comes to your company’s innovation efforts. Although you oversee these efforts 365 days a year, year end is a good time to reassess and reconnect with your innovation strategy. Step away from the helm briefly to follow these four suggestions that will boost your innovation outcomes in the new year.
- Go see a customer and practice design listening. Sure, one of your most important jobs is to make sure that your employees are always focused on customers. But there’s nothing like talking with your customer firsthand. Listening and observing. Discussing your company’s goals and what improvements are needed for the upcoming year. Finding out what’s most important to them. You might hear that you need to enhance your new product pipeline. Of course, also talk with five of your top customers and thank them for their business. It will pay dividends for both of you.
- Talk directly with an end user. CEOs do not get to do this enough. Pulled in a hundred directions, it’s hard to find time for end user interaction. But there’s nothing like the voice of a customer to ground you in the business. One way to accomplish this is time in your customer service department. Spend a few hours manning the customer service phones and hear directly what problems your end users have with your products and services. If possible, check with your product development team and marketing group to see when they’ll next be in the field conducting ethnography. Invite yourself to one or more of the sessions. The company that can anticipate the needs of customers better and faster wins. For more on Design Listening, click here.
- Meet with one or more of your most creative product development teams. Maybe for an off-site lunch. Ask what they would do next, what barriers they have to accomplishing their goals in the coming year, what we can do better, and what they need from you. Share your goals and focuses for the upcoming year. Of course, thank them and let them know you’re counting on them and have complete faith in them. Your product development team is the crew that must embrace change in the new year and explore innovations. Set 2017 as the year of a really big idea! For more on developing better ideas, click here.
- Walk around your offices and assess the development team’s environment. Does it foster creativity? Is it an environment that will produce future breakthroughs? If not, go back and allocate money in your budget to vitalize in-house creative environments. See more on setting your team up for creative brilliance here.
Just as a surgeon can’t operate from the observation room, the best CEOs see the value in personally checking their company’s innovation health by keeping a finger on the pulse of staff and customers.