Making innovation simpler

In our 2012 study, respondents told us that—with the notable exception of asking for a raise—nothing was more complicated in the workplace than promoting innovation. So this year, we wanted to dig a little deeper and see if we could find ways to facilitate innovation, to make it simpler. But first we needed to answer two questions:

  • What’s different about workplaces where people find promoting innovation simplest compared to the ones where people find it most complex?
  • What kind of innovations do consumers feel make their lives the most simple?

The answer to both questions is surprisingly simple: it all comes down to purpose. Companies with employees who both understand and are committed to their organization’s purpose find innovation simple. Innovations with the most obvious utilitarian purpose are the ones consumers say contribute most to making their lives simpler.

Simplifying innovation at work

Companies and brands that want to innovate more and make innovation simpler, clearly articulate their purpose. They make purpose a central focus, one that guides the way employees engage and act. For innovation to take hold, however, an open door policy at the top is critical. Companies that encourage employees to speak their minds, provide learning opportunities and make innovation simpler stand out.

Top attributes that most consistently describe companies
where it’s simplest to innovate

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Attributes with the biggest gaps between companies
where
it is simple to innovate and where it is complex

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Innovations that simplify daily life

Consumers are conflicted when it comes to technology. On the one hand, they embrace the innovations that use technology to make their lives simpler—that track their luggage, monitor their cellphones and keep them out of lines at checkout. On the other hand, innovations with far greater potential to transform their daily lives—like a new kind of fork, using social media to shop or seeing the world through Google Glass—all create apprehension and are seen as potential complications. Which is why, again, it comes down to purpose. Consumers are more likely to embrace innovations whose simple purpose they clearly understand.

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The top 10 innovations globally that simplify people’s lives

  1. A portable charger for your phone that’s the size of a credit card and fits in your wallet
  2. A tracker to place in luggage so that if it gets lost in transit you can find it with your smartphone
  3. A checkout system in your shopping cart that lets you scan items as you put them into your cart and check out automatically as you exit the store
  4. A smartphone that can survive being dropped in water
  5. Boarding passes on your smartphone
  6. Complimentary usage of tablets (e.g., iPad) in flight or in the terminal
  7. An electric car that can drive long distances before needing to recharge
  8. Price scanners located throughout the grocery store
  9. A smartphone app that allows you to compare prices of items when you scan them at a store
  10. A way to consolidate all your passwords in one place