Exploring the Role of the C-Suite in Product Innovation

Three people sitting on the grass with legs crossed relaxing.
A little outside-the-box thinking goes a long way.

One of the many problems with the “lone genius in the garage” view of innovation is that too often, the C-suite is stylized as the people who say “no” to a brilliant idea, only to regret it later. There’s even a small cottage industry of articles about the series Shark Tank, sometimes analyzing and sometimes mocking how business geniuses didn’t get in on the ground floor of hit products like Ring or Chef Big Shake. Innovation is really a team effort, and the c-suite is a valuable part of that team.

Cultural Support

The first role is to support innovation as part of your corporate culture. Encourage and model collaboration, a strong work ethic, and experimentation. Set up tools that allow employees and their supervisors to trade, refine, and reconsider ideas. Reward people who develop innovations, however small, and encourage them to keep it going. Highlight innovative ideas and approaches you find and ask the rest of your team to consider their own ways of applying those ideas. Leading by example is a truly powerful method to bolster innovation.

Design An Innovation Strategy Around Your Business Plan

A good idea only works if it fits the needs of your particular organization. So as employees have ideas, you need an innovation strategy connecting to your business strategy to shape and guide them. After all, there’s no point in inventing a better mousetrap if you don’t sell mousetraps and can’t get into the mousetrap industry easily.

Look at what your short- and long-term business goals are, and consider how employees can help each other reach those goals. Having a clear path is always a net good for your organization, but particularly for innovation, it will give employees a road map when refining or considering ideas.

However, don’t forget to offer employees an outlet for ideas that aren’t tied to your business model; after all, just because you’re not in the mousetrap business now doesn’t mean you might not be aligned with it in the future.

Group of three people sitting at a table working with laptops.
Engagement is a two-way street.

Get Involved

In the world of employee motivation techniques, nothing is quite so powerful as someone in authority showing interest in employee ideas. Being involved naturally draws employees to your initiatives, but it also inspires them. It allows you to communicate what you’re most interested in directly to your employees, and it offers them more guidance on how to shape and otherwise consider ideas.

It also lets you better understand what your employees are most passionate about in their jobs. If you keep seeing different solutions to the same issue, it’s worth looking into the issue itself and seeing if it’s possible to resolve, either through one of the innovations with which you’re being presented or through another approach.

Encouraging innovation will be a constant part of any executive’s time in the C-suite. Innovation is the lifeblood of any company, and in leading by example and encouraging it where you can find it, you’ll build a stronger organization. To learn more about innovation strategy in the C-suite, join our newsletter today.

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