Responding to the demands of the market calls for permanent innovation. With this in mind, it might be a good idea to make your employees the primary source of innovation.
L'Atelier: Can a company ignore R&D these days and still carry on doing business?
Vivek Ranadivé: No, that’s out of the question. Nowadays innovation and business are absolutely correlated. This is especially true right across the ICT sector, which is closely linked to really fast-changing technology. At TIBCO for instance more than 50% of our revenue comes from products which didn’t exist five years ago. It’s very simple: you have to innovate on a permanent basis. If you’re content to just come up with innovations now and again you can be sure that as soon as you’ve finished developing something, it will already have been overtaken by something else. You need to be several steps ahead of the market, and that can only happen when innovation is integrated into the core working processes of your company.
L'Atelier: So how do you integrate innovation?
Vivek Ranadivé: You just have to tell yourself that innovation can no longer happily reside in a specific department within the company, but must be the concern of all employees. Let’s take an example. 20th century innovation centred on a small number of people who had the knowledge, whereas 21st century innovation will be all about wide proliferation. You might compare it to jazz music, where each musician puts in his own little touch and so helps to make the whole thing work harmoniously.
L'Atelier: Well and good, but how do you encourage employees to innovate? Do you have to dangle rewards in front of them?
Vivek Ranadivé: No, that’s not my view at all. I don’t think you can push employees to innovate. Money doesn’t give birth to ideas. Wanting to innovate and then actually doing so have to come from the employees themselves. The role of the company is more to create an environment which favours the innovation process. This means giving employees space to express themselves, adopting flexible processes similar to those of an SMB but on a major corporate scale, and ensuring that the management team leads by example, taking part in the process rather than supervising it. Basically - and in my view it’s the most important aspect - I am convinced that “necessity is the mother of invention”. For example, when there’s strong demand, an employee will want to innovate in order to speed up the process and so make his work easier. And coming back to this notion of reward, of course there should be a reward at the end but as a means of sustaining innovation, not as a means of initiating it.