Innovation is the gold standard of modern business. And yet, with the rapid rate of technological advancement, it has become more of an expectation than a differentiator:
- In one study, 84% of consumers said it’s important that the company they buy from is innovative.
- Two-thirds of organizations said that business innovation is critical to their survival, according to Forbes.
But “innovation” has proved difficult to harness. In fact, Booz Allen found that no statistically significant relationship exists between innovation and traditional R&D investment. So if you’re a business leader tasked with building an innovative brand, what can you do?
The answer is surprisingly simple, and it reflects on a truth that both Steve Jobs and neuroscience would agree on: You need to afford your people the time and energy to innovate. Salesforce.com (if used correctly) will let you do that.
Saving brain space for business innovation.
The elusiveness of innovation makes sense when you think about where you and your employees spend their brain power. Most activities in business can be broken down into three levels of mental complexity: routine, advancement and innovation.
Routine involves recurring daily tasks that keep the lights on: checking emails, generating status reports, entering data, etc. It takes the least amount of brain energy, but has the smallest impact on the health of your business and can turn into a massive time-suck.
Most employee’s job description falls under the category of advancement, actions that drive value within the existing rules of an industry. Examples include most product design, sales activities and content generation.
Innovation needs no introduction. All business leaders are familiar with examples of game-changing developments that disrupted entire industries for the benefit of consumers such as Ford’s assembly line, Domino’s delivery pizza boxes and the standardization of restaurants that McDonald’s introduced. Though the line between innovation and advancement may blur, you know innovation when you see it. The first iPhone was the product of innovation, while the iPhone 5s was the result of advancement.
If your company is struggling to innovate, it’s likely that your employees aren’t spending enough mental energy on innovation. Most humans work bottom-up: routine precedes advancement, advancement comes before innovation. It’s challenging to drive value when you’re bogged down by mundane tasks, and business leaders can’t focus on innovation when worried about low revenue figures.
In fact, our brains literally cannot innovate when occupied with the other two types of tasks. In their book The Net and the Butterfly, authors Olivia Fox Cabana and Judah Pollack show that the brain has two different modes, one for task completion and one for creative thinking. Every minute you spend on minutiae represents one you can’t spend innovating. Leaders like Steve Jobs and Barack Obama understood this and standardized many of their routines, like their wardrobes, to waste less mental energy on daily details.
Don’t sweat the small stuff: How Salesforce boosts business innovation.
So what’s the key to generating the newest ground-breaking idea? Give yourself and your employees time to innovate by investing in technology that helps take care of “routine” types of activities. While most CRMs save time for their users, Salesforce is specifically known for its process automation capabilities. The platform also helps reduce the time leaders spend on “advancement” tasks, as Salesforce reporting offers them a reliable pulse on their business health.
Countless organizations have realized significant time savings by implementing Salesforce, but how does that lead to innovation? The key is to avoid equating time saved with money saved (a.k.a. reduced headcount) because pioneering companies, instead, give their employees that extra bandwidth to devote to innovative pursuits.
As mentioned above, companies with large R&D departments (i.e., detached silos of employees whose pursuit of innovation can often deviate from the day-to-day realities of the business) are rarely the most innovative. Instead, business leaders increasingly view their own people as the key to driving innovation. PWC’s Innovation Benchmark Report found that 60% of executives view their internal employees as their most important innovation partner, while the director of innovation at Nesta notes that “failure to listen to frontline workers can be a major obstacle to innovation.”
Innovation, in short, is rarely successful when it’s top-down or envisioned in a cordoned off laboratory. It happens best when it occurs more naturally — when leaders and employees who grapple every day with the challenges facing the industry and the customer have the time to detach themselves from the stress of repetitive tasks and goal completion. Only then can they transform the pain points around them into ideas for disruptive change.
Salesforce offers your company that ability by saving time and reducing mental stress at every level of your company, provided your Salesforce strategy aligns with this end goal.