"We didn't start the fire~" But in this case, Billy Joel, we did start the fire, and it's the beautiful fire of innovation! 

The truth is that the only way to achieve disruptive excellence in your company is by building a culture of innovation. That means having an environment where creativity and new ideas are encouraged, celebrated, and rewarded. It starts at the top with leadership setting the tone for an innovative culture—but it's much more than that. Here are some tips on how you can kindle your inner inferno!

#1 - Igniting the Flame: Defining Your Guiding Principles

Every triumphant blaze starts with a spark. Your company's principles, purpose, and founding rules are this spark. Don't just write them; live them. They will attract the right talent and ensure that every member of your organization is marching to the same innovative beat around the bonfire.

Take, for instance, Nike, whose founder, Phil Knight, proposed ten enduring principles. These principles are etched into the company's DNA, fostering innovation from groundbreaking sneakers to iconic marketing campaigns. Jeff Bezos, Amazon's visionary, adopted the motto "Gradatim Ferociter" for his space venture Blue Origin, which translates to "step by step, ferociously." It encapsulates Blue Origin's relentless pursuit of innovation, one step at a time.

#2 - Fanning the Flames: Embracing Failure and Fostering a Positive Outlook

Innovation is a roaring fire that often sparks from failures. But these failures aren't setbacks—they're opportunities to fan the flames of progress. The way you perceive and handle these failures defines your innovation culture. Examine your internal processes—do they celebrate failures as part of the learning process, or do they penalize them as missteps?

Under Elon Musk's leadership, Tesla stands as a testament to this ideology. At Tesla, failure isn't punished; the lack of innovation is condemned. This mindset shift has given rise to audacious ideas and nurtured trust within the team. When the fear of failure diminishes, it's replaced by the relentless pursuit of progress, and innovation thrives.

Fanning The Flames
#3 - Feeding the Fire: Cultivating Ideas through Dedicated Brainstorming

Innovation isn't a random spark—it's a fire that needs constant fuel. Pixar's Braintrust sessions exemplify this—a sanctuary for freeform idea exploration. Here, creatives dissect projects honestly, giving birth to a culture where ideas are born, cultivated, and refined. Google's famed "20 percent time" is another nod to the importance of carving out space for innovation within the daily grind. (They give engineers one day a week to work on whatever they want!)

Here at Carbon Edge, we host monthly Innovation Committee meetings—a one-hour brainstorming session where we let our ideas run wild. Not only does it provide a refreshing break from our routine, but it also sparks some of our best ideas!

#4 - Combining Fuels: Harnessing the Power of Multi-Disciplinary Teams

As a fire blazes brighter with varied fuels, innovation flourishes when diverse minds unite. Tesla's factory layout, integrating engineers, designers, and business minds under one roof, fosters seamless collaboration. It's a powerful lesson: silos stifle innovation, but diversity fuels it.

Consider IDEO, a leading global design and innovation firm that champions design thinking. Whenever they approach a new project, they bring together professionals from various disciplines – architects, nurses – you name it. These diverse perspectives infuse new vitality into client projects, steering them away from the treacherous seas of groupthink.

#5 - Keeping the Flame Alive: Constantly Challenging the Status Quo and Rewarding Innovation

Innovation is not a one-off event but an ongoing process that requires constant nurturing and encouragement. It thrives on new ideas. Encourage your team to think creatively and challenge the norm. Make it clear that every idea, no matter big or small, is valuable and will be considered seriously.

However, that is only half the equation; innovation must also be rewarded. Recognizing and rewarding it can range from public acknowledgments to financial incentives. These rewards must resonate with your teams, motivating them to share creative solutions.

For example, Apple Inc. is famous for its culture of continuous innovation. It has a program called 'Apple Fellows' that recognizes individuals who have made remarkable technical or leadership contributions. This recognition encourages employees to challenge conventions and push boundaries, knowing their outstanding work will be rewarded.

#6 - Letting the Fire Breathe: Minimizing Process and Bureaucracy

A fire needs room to breathe, and so does innovation. Don't smother the flames with cumbersome processes. A valuable lesson we learned from the Collision Conference 2023 in Toronto is this: don't make hard things harder. If something breaks, add a simple revert button. Avoid the labyrinth of reviews and approvals that can choke the life out of your innovation fire.

Lighting The Candle

Wrapping It Up

Hopefully, you will know how to kindle your own fire at your company by now! Remember, every ember has the potential to become a roaring blaze. So keep fueling your innovative fire, let it breathe, and watch as it lights up the path to disruptive excellence. It's your fire—ignite, fan, feed, and let it roar!

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