Expert advice: Top 5 tips to make innovation a core part of your company

ARYZE spoke with Jeanette Carlsson as she shared with us her top advice for businesses to successfully manage innovation within their companies.

Jeanette Carlsson is the founder and CEO of Tech Nordic Advocates, Northern Europe’s largest tech/startup ecosystem, headquartered in Copenhagen; CEO of newmedia2.0, diplomatic and board advisor with a background as a global, European business leader at IBM and prior to that as a strategy consultant at PwC. Besides these roles, she is Expert Advisor to the European Commission’s Innovation Council, lecturer in Innovation & Entrepreneurship at leading UK universities, and has played key roles in building London’s startup ecosystem, incl. with the Mayor of London and on London Tech City Steering Group. In 2018, Jeanette was voted ‘Inspirational Woman’ by the City of London and acknowledged by her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for her contribution to London’s tech sector.

With her background, Jeanette has brought all her experience to bear to help companies innovate. Jeanette Carlsson shares how she loves to push boundaries and challenge the status quo – to examine the art of the possible – and that is exactly what she believes technology and innovation do. For her, technology is all about inventing new ways, disrupting existing ways of doing things and enabling things that were impossible before.

Just look at the global Pandemic: How would we all have fared without technology and innovating new ways of doing things? Both in our personal and working lives. The economic impact of Covid-19 has been profound but, through technology and innovation enabling new ways of working, including from home, we have been able to cushion the impact and keep a high number of people working who would otherwise have been laid off.

The entrepreneur believes that without technology and innovation, the adverse impact of the pandemic would have been a lot worse for people’s lives and business. To help protect young businesses, together with Vækstfonden (Danish Growth Fund), Tech Nordic Advocates launched a Startup Ecosystem COVID-19 Resource Hub in May. They attracted an additional 18 private and public sector partners, including the Copenhagen City Council, to help Danish digital and tech startups and the ecosystem at large.

The aim is to rescue and support these businesses, save jobs, livelihoods, mental health of people and protect the massive contribution startups make to innovation and future economic growth. Carlsson witnessed how the pandemic opened people’s eyes to see the important roles startups had to play.

Technology, Innovation & People

Ultimately, what fascinates the entrepreneur the most about the industry is the interface between technology, innovation and people.

Technology has so many ways of enriching people’s lives: Whether this is a young person or early adopter of any age having fun with tech, or a tech savvy geek working with it, or an elderly or physically challenged person, who can benefit from healthtech apps to improve the quality of life.

Innovation

With technology being such an important aspect of today’s world, it is important that businesses create enough opportunities for themselves to make innovation happen. Carlsson shares 5 tips with us on how to make innovation a core part of your business.

1.     Innovation mindset

According to Carlsson, companies should try to keep an open mind and general focus on new, faster, cheaper or better ways of doing things. She believes it is about having an innovation mindset that starts from the top of an organization and goes down to all employees

Organizations that have an innovation mindset change the world. Organizations that don’t, get disrupted. Just look at the disruption we have seen in the banking and insurance space by fintechs and insurtechs in recent years. Same goes for retail which started with Amazon.

Currently, it is the real estate sector which is being disrupted by proptech, the public sector, disrupted by gov tech, hospitality/travel/leisure sectors disrupted by travel tech and many more.

2.     Commitment from the top

Although making innovation happen within your company must start with the right mindset, Carlsson mentions the crucial need of commitment. Businesses should make a commitment to innovation, supported by the CEO or board of the organization. It involves allocating a budget and resources and setting a clear agenda to foster innovation.

3.     Defining innovation for your company

A clear agenda is needed, Carlsson argues, as innovation is a general word. According to the entrepreneur, organizations should define what innovation means for them, within the context of their business and industry. Only then, companies know where they are heading.

I have seen many examples of clients and partners who recruited an innovation director with no clear remit. This person then starts to do incremental stuff that makes no difference, only to get fired when the organization decides that he or she has not delivered any ROI. Companies need to decide what innovation means for them.

4.       Allow time for ‘trying things out’

The proverbial ‘Go and play with Lego bricks in the corner for ½ a day per week’, very much applies here, Carlsson tells us. Companies should organize initiatives like setting up innovation fora (e.g. tech platforms) where staff can contribute ideas and be measured on that.

If businesses punish rather than reward time spent on non-core immediate business deliverables, innovation will fail.

5.     Always have something new to offer

Customers like businesses like IKEA or Amazon, that always have something new to offer. When your brand is associated with innovation, you can expect customer buy-in.

Carlsson mentions some of the main benefits it has for companies that are constantly innovating. She believes they can experience industry leadership, better financial performance, and the ability to recruit and retain top talent, as top talent are motivated by innovative organizations and want to work for these companies.

If you’d like to learn more about Jeanette, connect with her on LinkedIn or visit the Tech Nordic Advocates website, or her company newmedia2.0. To read more about tech, expert advice, or start-ups, check out our blog or visit our website.

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