Is it possible to systematically manufacture innovation? Is it a pipe dream to think you can create inventive, world-changing ideas at your company out of thin air -- or is innovation something so unpredictable you can't harness it?
Eric Schmidt, the former executive chairman of Google and a Silicon Valley icon, believes you can. In fact, when recently interviewed on The Tim Ferriss Show, he said that by applying a simple principle Google co-founder Sergey Brin thought up, his team was able to create a culture at Google that paved the way for innovative product after innovative product, from Gmail to Google Earth.
The 70/20/10 Principle
The idea Brin came up with is known as the 70/20/10 Rule. Meaning, if a company wants to blaze trails in its industry when it comes to novel ideas and products, it should invest 70 percent of its financial resources and manpower into the products already working well, 20 percent on newer ideas that are "low-hanging fruit," and 10 percent on wild, outlandish bets.
The idea is that by investing in absolute moonshots consistently, you'll eventually hit the jackpot, which will pay for all the other "misses." Even if only one out of 50 of your ideas is the next Google Maps, the dividends your company will receive will more than pay for the Google+'s and other strikeouts.
Here's how to apply this idea to your own organization:
1. Encourage "intra-preneurship."
One of the easiest ways to foster innovation at your company is to create a culture of intra-preneurship -- where employees feel comfortable and empowered taking on projects outside their traditional roles, much like entrepreneurs do. The world's most innovative companies, from Google to Facebook, have adopted a mindset similar to this, and the results speak for themselves.
There are many ways you can go about doing this. For instance, you could host monthly pitch sessions where employees present creative ways to patch up holes in your organization, and the winners could receive a bonus or an extra day of PTO in addition to spearheading the project.
2. Measure everything.
If you aren't actively measuring every new idea or feature your company tests, knowing whether it's a success or failure is impossible. You may have a project that's driven great results for your company already, but you wouldn't know by just going with your gut.
If you're going to create an inventive company culture, you have to first establish what your core metrics of success are. Then, religiously measure every new idea you invest resources into.
3. Provide incentives to workers who attend industry events and take relevant online courses.
A company of thought leaders who know your industry inside and out are the types of workers who can transform a good company to an industry-leading one. They'll be the people who can see opportunities in the marketplace your business could capitalize on that you might be missing.
In order to create a band of workers like this, consider providing incentives for them to attend industry events (conferences, workshops, meetups, etc.) and take online courses where they'll sharpen their skills and knowledge relevant to your field. This could be something as small as giving a $50 Amazon gift card to any team member who successfully passes a Coursera or Udemy course related to your space.
4. Host meetups that are run by your workers.
Positioning your employees as thought leaders in their craft won't only boost their confidence; it'll more than likely increase their loyalty to your organization as a whole. They'll know you believe in their abilities and have enough confidence in them to be the face of the organization -- even if it's just for a night.
Whether you're an advertising agency hosting an Instagram marketing meetup or a local brewery hosting an event to teach attendees how to brew craft beer, try letting your managers or employees take the lead. This will get the ball rolling and wheels turning when it comes to thinking up new and innovative projects for your company.
Innovation is often thought of as some magical happening that can't be replicated or created on demand -- instead, you've got to wait around for it to happen to you. But innovative rock stars like Eric Schmidt and Sergey Brin challenge this notion, head-on. By following the 70/20/10 Rule as well as the tips laid out in this article, you can start the process of turning your company into the Google of your industry.