Big Ideas From Innovation Leaders That Will Jumpstart Your Innovative Engines

Bruce Nussbaum, author of “Creative Intelligence,” wrote in Bloomberg Businessweek about how innovators like Gap are using design strategy and metrics to launch more successful products. Such firms first observe customers before they try out new ideas—for example, Gap redesigned its dressing rooms to be larger after it observed that most of its shoppers came in pairs or threesomes to its stores.

“3M and Google give their employees free time to experiment.”

Innovators also build prototypes to make quicker launch decisions, develop organizational processes for continuous innovation and, perhaps most importantly, create feedback loops using “innovation metrics,” such as CENCOR—which stands for calibrate, explore, create, organize and realize.

But mostly, it’s all about fostering an innovative culture, says Soren Kaplan, author of “Leapfrogging,” which involves six steps, including creating a structure for unstructured time, and knowing when to “step back.”

For example, 3M and Google give their employees free time to experiment, while software company Atlassian gives workers paid time off in “FedEx Days,” in which they present solutions to any problem they want to tackle and resolve within 24 hours.

Strong innovators also know when to step back and not “over-engineer” the innovation process, Kaplan writes. Companies wanting to foster an innovative culture give “just enough structure and support to help people navigate uncertainty and tap into the creative process without stifling.”

Before you leave this article, jot down all the ideas you’ve generated to make your company more innovative. Then, share your existing innovative strategies with others in the comments section below.

Access The Most Innovative Companies 2014: Breaking Through Is Hard to Do here.