SEPTEMBER 23, 2018

Are Your Internal Processes Innovative?

Ross Mitchell, Greg VanderPol


The idea that innovation is a key to business success is a cliché at this point. Every company – assuming they’re still in business – knows that they must continually develop new products and services to survive.  Indeed, as traditional business models become increasingly challenged, this idea is more important than ever.  And while some companies are more successful than others at innovating, few major corporations today are totally lacking in some kind of formal innovation practice. Just as the business landscape is always changing, most companies understand that they must change businesses, products, and services with it as well.

At least that is true when it comes to the customer-facing aspects of most companies. For far too many companies, they seem to forget that the success of the internal aspects of their company is also subject to the forces of evolving future context. Innovate our products and services? Sure. Innovate our HR policies and internal processes? Huh…  

This dichotomy does not make much sense however. After all, the internal practices of a company ultimately impact how well they are able to deliver innovative solutions. Internal processes that are decades behind the times are simply not suited to adapt to changing cultural and economic contexts that businesses need to understand in order to grow.  Simply put, in an ever-shifting business and cultural environment, internal business practices should not be left off of the innovation pipeline.   

You don’t have to look far to find opportunities for process innovation. A quick sampling of the headlines provides an abundance of opportunities.  McDonalds recently faced #MeToo walkouts due to complaints that they failed to take the harassment of female employees seriously.   Greater innovation in internal processes could have more effectively future proofed McDonalds by ensuring that women’s and other diverse voices were heard. Lack of employee engagement is a key driver for the highest rates of quitting in seventeen years, indeed innovation around employee engagement will become increasingly important for companies to attract and retain talented and productive employees. And if today’s problems aren’t complex enough, the coming wave of robotics and automation will provide myriad opportunities to change how businesses work.

Beginning to think about how to innovate your company’s internal practices may seem daunting, but it can be approached in a similar manner to product innovation—identify the problem, ideate ways to close the gap, and design an elevated experience. Brandculture, for instance, offers design-sprint workshops to identify ways to innovate the employee experience. No matter how you approach it though, the time for organizations to embrace both customer facing innovation and internal innovation is now.