Innovation could be one of the most overused words in tech these days, yet it’s enduring importance cannot be over-stated. Innovation is the way by which the top firms manage to stay relevant year after year, and a lack of it from the industrial giants of old has caused a massive upheaval of the Fortune 500 over the past two decades. With technology and its impact on society developing and expanding quicker every year, innovation is not just required to stay at the top of any field, companies can no longer stay relevant without constantly being on the front foot looking for new ideas. There are a number of different and somewhat unusual way that different firms encourage their employees to invent and be creative with new product or service ideas, from cash incentives to free time during each day for creative thinking and design!
Perhaps the most famous firm on the planet for allowing employees time to innovate is Google, engineers are given regular time away from their daily jobs to apply themselves to creative side projects – up to 20 percent of their work week can be applied to these projects. In fact, Gmail was initially conceived as a “20 percent project”, so Google clearly take these ideas and side projects very seriously. On top of this Google also run a program of Google Talks where celebrities, artists, authors, performers, activists, and politicians are invited to give talks to the staff. These are designed to in Google’s own words “keep our brains learning, growing, and thinking”, and so far I would have to admit it seems to be working!
However, Google aren’t the only company who encourages their employees to innovate; Adobe Kickstart is an internal initiative available to any employee at Adobe. They sign up for a two-day innovation workshop, and are given a $1000 credit card to build and test a prototype which is then pitched to company executives – if one Executive says “yes” to the prototype then it moves along to the next stage of testing.
Rather than give their employees time during each week to work on different projects, designer Stefan Sagmeister closes his New York studio every 7 years to give all his employees a year-long vacation to rejuvenate and refresh their minds. The approach has been a successful one, and Sagmeister showed off the products that came from the refreshed minds of his workforce in a 2009 Ted Talk.
Venture Capital firm Momentum Ventures have started to look outwards for innovation rather than inwards, launching a $500,000 entrepreneurial challenge to find the next great business leader ready to take on the world. Momentum Ventures’ CEO Matt Keezer touted it as more than just a career opportunity, declaring that they were willing to pour as much money as required into the winner’s business venture (provided that they felt it was a prudent investment!). Innovation may be the most overused word in tech today, but it remains the most consequential trait to ensure the growth and survival of any company.
Sponsored startup series by Momentum Ventures
By Josh Hamilton