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How Does Your Company Stack Up When It Comes to Innovation?

Six factors successful organizations have in common

2 min read
Hands of people pointing at different work related papers.
Photo: iStockphoto

THE INSTITUTERegardless of their position, employees should be empowered to drive change within their company, whether that’s modernizing operations and offerings or creating new products, according to Ideo, a global design firm based in San Francisco.

For more than 25 years, Ideo has worked to improve the creative competitiveness at Ford, Nike, Proctor and Gamble, and other companies. Ideo found that a company’s ability to adapt and respond to change is key to its success—and everyone should be involved in the process.

Using the Creative Difference tool it developed, Ideo collected data from 100 participating organizations and came away with insights into what makes them innovative. Fast Company reviewed Ideo’s findings, including the six factors shared by creative companies.

  • KEEP AN OPEN MIND

    A receptive team considers all possibilities and is not afraid to go back to the drawing board. Companies that pursue five or more ideas at once are 50 percent more likely to be successful in launching a project, according to Ideo.

    When you get too invested in one approach, it’s hard to acknowledge the potential faults it has, according to Ideo’s managing director, David Aycan, who oversees the Creative Difference program.

    “Get a few ideas on the table,” Aycan said in the Fast Company article. “Stay flexible in terms of where the project might go.”

  • CHALLENGE THE NORM

    Employees should be comfortable enough to question the status quo and speak their mind, no matter how outrageous the idea. When employees don’t hold back in expressing their opinions, the chances of a failed launch decrease by nearly 17 percent, according to the insights.

  • UNITE AROUND A COMMON GOAL

    Leaders who dictate the company’s mission clearly and follow through with projects and solutions that support it succeed 20 percent more often than leaders who don’t, according to Ideo.

    “When the mission remains stable,” Aycan said, “the priorities aren’t constantly changing and the innovation projects and teams have a stable foundation that they can continue to work toward.”

  • Video: Ideo

    WORK REMOTELY

    Counterintuitively, distance between team members does not hurt collaboration. “The most innovative companies surveyed have 25 to 57 percent of their employees working remotely,” Fast Company reports, adding that teams with more remote workers are more successful in their initiatives.

    That’s because remote workers encourage organizations to be more focused on collaboration and sharing information, according to Ideo.

  • TOUCH BASE DAILY

    Although working remotely hinders face-to-face contact, it’s important to communicate with colleagues at least once a day. Having a cohesive team that interacts daily led to 28 percent fewer failed launches among the 100 companies evaluated.

    Teams that communicate daily—compared with those that update each other weekly or monthly—are 21 percent more likely to be successful, Ideo says.

  • LEAD BY EXAMPLE

    The days of top-down leadership may soon be extinct. Companies are 17 percent more effective when leaders are willing to work alongside their employees and help them with their tasks.

    The best organizations empower more of their employees to identify tensions, Aycan added, as well as equip them with ways to solve problems.

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Economics Drives Ray-Gun Resurgence

Laser weapons, cheaper by the shot, should work well against drones and cruise missiles

4 min read
In an artist’s rendering, a truck is shown with five sets of wheels—two sets for the cab, the rest for the trailer—and a box on the top of the trailer, from which a red ray is projected on an angle, upward, ending in the silhouette of an airplane, which is being destroyed

Lockheed Martin's laser packs up to 300 kilowatts—enough to fry a drone or a plane.

Lockheed Martin

The technical challenge of missile defense has been compared with that of hitting a bullet with a bullet. Then there is the still tougher economic challenge of using an expensive interceptor to kill a cheaper target—like hitting a lead bullet with a golden one.

Maybe trouble and money could be saved by shooting down such targets with a laser. Once the system was designed, built, and paid for, the cost per shot would be low. Such considerations led planners at the Pentagon to seek a solution from Lockheed Martin, which has just delivered a 300-kilowatt laser to the U.S. Army. The new weapon combines the output of a large bundle of fiber lasers of varying frequencies to form a single beam of white light. This laser has been undergoing tests in the lab, and it should see its first field trials sometime in 2023. General Atomics, a military contractor in San Diego, is also developing a laser of this power for the Army based on what’s known as the distributed-gain design, which has a single aperture.

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