Becoming an innovative leader–and staying there–requires a new way of thinking. Answering these questions can help get you started.

Google. Amazon. Netflix. Enter your business’s name here?

Each of these companies has recently been dubbed among the most “innovative” in the world. But rarely do businesses consistently remain atop of their sector.

Becoming an industry leader–and staying there–requires a new way of thinking. And answering certain questions can help get you started:

How Do You Foster an Innovative Workplace?
Today, the World Economic Forum (WEF) is set to name just 24 companies out of around 600 applicants as “technology pioneers.” They share certain qualities: each has invested significantly in research and development (R&D) and boasts a recent innovation–something that hasn’t been released as a new version or a repackaged product of an already well-accepted technological solution.

To get to this point, these organizations have also overcome one of the greatest challenges to consistently being innovative: They’ve developed the kinds of workplaces that encourage employees to think with fresh ideas.

“Business that continually innovate have hit upon a blend of recruiting and maintaining amazing talent, strong leadership with a strong vision, and a culture that rewards experimentation and allows for missteps along the way,” says Fulvia Montresor, director of WEF’s technology pioneer community. “Silicon Valley’s common practice of allocating some employee time to take on their own projects is an example of culture and practices that foster innovation, but bring their own challenges. Companies need to experiment and evolve internally to continue to innovate.”

Should You Develop Products Within, or Beyond, Your Office Walls?
Meet Ducere Technologies’ Lechal, the name of both interactive footwear and an insole that syncs with Bluetooth and uses Google Maps to vibrate whenever a wearer needs to turn to reach their destination. Then there’s Boogio, a competing device that slips into a pair of shoes and syncs with Bluetooth to act as an interactive controller for gaming, virtual reality, fitness and health applications.

Sounds similar, right?

It turns out, each company is taking a very different approach while striving to become the most innovative smartshoe player.

Lechal is being developed in somewhat of a bubble: “We’ve been focused on creating products that we ourselves want to buy,” says Sonia Benjamin, Lechal’s general manager for communications and business development. “As such, as we see this complete freedom to create has kept us innovative as we’ve not been stifled by industry pressures.”

Meanwhile, Boogio is taking a more collaborative approach by offering a so-called developer kit, so that people can build new applications to suit their needs. (It has already been paired with gadgets such as Google Glass, Oculus Rift and the Pebble smartwatch.) “Because we are a developer kit, the product encourages innovation beyond the walls of our offices,” says Jose Torres, Boogio’s CEO. “This R&D effort helps to shape the next generation of our product so we can be one step ahead.”

Which approach is the right one? Product sales over time will ultimately decide. But it is crucial your company’s leaders, and employees, develop a strategy that keeps a pulse on what product purchasers are going to want.

Are You Pushing Beyond Your Competitors?
Many of WEF’s technology pioneers announced today feature innovations with a new spin on an old idea. Guardant Health, for one, is a diagnostics company that seeks to track cancer in real time through a simple blood test, while Newlight Technologies transforms air and greenhouse gas into a plastic material that matches oil-based plastics but at a cheaper price.

Another company called Organovo was chosen for its design and development of 3D bioprinting technology for medical research and therapeutic applications. Although still in development, Montresor notes, Organovo’s technology ultimately aims to 3D print actual human organs for transplantation.

“The company shows how technologies can converge in surprising ways, where one innovator can spark major changes in an industry,” says Montresor.”It wasn’t so long ago that when we spoke of 3D printing we were thinking of its advantages for mechanical prototyping and design, certainly not healthcare.”

Have you recently rethought your industry’s approach to a problem. If so, how might the process apply to another sector entirely?

Source: Inc.com

Author: Neil Parmar ,writes about technology and startups. He’s also a professor of journalism and resident storyteller at Jolt, a startup accelerator.

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