Gregarious Narain has both worked for startups and founded a few of his own over his career. Now, as the founder and Lead Alpha at his newest venture, Greg is taking those years of experience of creating innovation and bringing it into large companies. BeforeAlpha is Gregarious’ new consulting firm that specializes in enabling organizations to understand what innovation really means and guides them through the process.
We recently sat down to speak with Gregarious about BeforeAlpha and his take on innovation inside large, established companies. He shared many interesting insights and among them there was one bit of knowledge that really resonated, when we asked him what are the common traits shared between companies that were most successful with creating innovation. Gregarious told us that he actually has a list of pillars that companies need to embrace if they want to push themselves forward. What are these pillars?
In order to properly think about innovating, a company must first understand why they are doing it. It’s one thing to say that your company needs to innovate, but it’s another to truly understand why it’s so important. Once your company figures out their why (and every company’s reasons will be different), make sure that everyone clearly understands it. A properly understood mission will drive innovation in the right direction. Gregarious says “You can’t just tell people what to do, they have to also understand why you want to do it.”
Once people understand what their company mission is and why innovation is important, they need to know what to do and when to do it. This is when you need to sit down and decide what is most important to you and your company and what can wait. Innovating and moving your company forward can take many shapes and involve many components, so decide which steps are most important and when you need to start working on them.
Gregarious told us that “This one may sound silly, but you’d be surprised how often permission is overlooked and/or ends up getting in the way of progress.” When people think of innovation inside of a company, they can feel that they are limited to making incremental changes that work within their already-established frame of reference. But, if you want big, game changing ideas, make sure that your people know that they have explicit permission to think about things in new and different ways. If you want out-of-the-box thinking, let them run free and make sure they know that they have support to do so.
When it comes to innovative ideas, intrapreneurs can’t be expected to always hit a homerun right away. Experimentation is the backbone of innovation. In order to find the best course of action for your company to take, you will have to look down many different avenues. Don’t be afraid to try new things or of failing. If they don’t work, then at least you know that for certain and are free to try other things. You may also be surprised at what actually works.
With experimentation comes success and failure. Both of these things are going to happen as you try new things, and it’s important to highlight them to everyone involved. People have a tendency to want to hide their failures, but there is much more to be gained by sharing them. There are important lessons to be learned from each triumph and failure that you experience, so it’s important that people understand what works and what doesn’t, and the reasons why.
Keeping in line with the experimentation needed to create true and successful innovation, people have to remember that innovation never really stops. As Gregarious told us, “Innovation is a process, not a goal.” It’s great to celebrate milestones, but remember that every milestone is just a marker on a longer journey. If companies want to stay relevant, they need to keep thinking about what’s next.
Knowledge is power and that power can make great things happen. Gregarious says that “If companies really want to be successful in innovation, they must democratize their knowledge and learnings.” Too often silos are created; amongst companies, amongst departments, even amongst teams–but these silos don’t help anyone. By making insights and knowledge available to everyone, everyone can come together over one common goal and learn from one another to improve and truly be innovative and create amazing things.
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