For centuries, people have been driven to innovate. But in today’s hypercompetitive environment, continuous innovation is all but required. Product lifecycles shorten, industries converge and the pace of technology-driven change only gets faster.
Despite these challenges, some companies make innovation look easy. With creativity and progress hardwired into their culture, they regularly explore how new processes, products, technology, and teamwork can create competitive edge. These organizations understand that innovation isn’t easy, but it can be nurtured.
I’ve worked with many organizations to formalize innovation, and these experiences have taught me a fundamental truth:
Innovation doesn’t happen by chance.
If you want to be innovative—let alone innovate continuously—you need formal structures in place. It’s unproductive to assume innovation happens at random. Even Newton spent hours watching apples fall in his garden before one struck him on the head. Turning ideas into impactful results requires a disciplined, focused, yet accessible approach.
At JLL, we have four pillars of innovation that bring together our people, processes and tools. This system creates a rapid cycle of innovation that our clients and employees can count on to create meaningful impact. Rather than waiting for a spark of inspiration, we’re purposefully moving our industry forward. Here’s how we advance our ideas:
Culture – Ideas grow when they’re encouraged
Without a deep commitment to making innovation a priority, the rest doesn’t matter. Across the globe, our people are encouraged to chase big ideas, knowing their creativity is supported, their vision is valued, and their drive never goes unnoticed.
We source great ideas through global and local platforms like issue-driven idea campaigns, social networking contests, productivity challenges. We also host an annual awards program to recognize standout innovations across the company.
We believe the innovation process helps us achieve high standards. Performance metrics and KPIs tied to innovation are set to hold teams accountable for delivering ideas that create value. This ensures that these ideas are primed for investment and now, it’s just a matter of deciding which resources are needed to realize speed to market for our best ideas.
People – Everyone is an innovator
Innovation will never take root if you only value input from select people. At JLL, we generate ideas from the top-down and the bottom-up. All ideas are vetted through our proprietary collaboration technology, Idea Stream. The platform makes sharing and vetting ideas simpler and centralizes submissions from more than 70,000 employees around the world. Whether it came from the C-suite or an engineer on the ground, every idea can become an innovation or best practice used across the entire organization.
To vet ideas, we also rely on market research and trends, business roadmaps, and intelligence from idea accelerators and incubators to make sure we have our finger on the pulse of emerging solutions and technologies that can grow our business and benefit our clients.
Partnership – Transformation is a team effort
At JLL, we’ve opened up our innovation and product development platform to clients. This style of open collaboration and co-creation has generated everything from small process improvements to large-scale product offerings and patents.
We partnered with Whirlpool to co-create our Financial Alignment and Optimization decision-making model. As the founding industry partner of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Real Estate Innovation Lab, we’re bringing together experts in statistics, computational architecture, economics and urban design to help determine the future of communities and cities through design and technology innovations. We’re also looking to partner with venture capital firms and tech incubators outside our industry to drive entirely new services and products.
Discipline – New doesn’t necessarily mean needed
Without governance and structure, innovation is just one big brainstorm. We have processes, policies, vetting protocols, and defined roles and responsibilities to make sure we’re advancing only the most valuable ideas.
Without governance and structure, innovation is just one big brainstorm.
Out of 10,000 ideas in Idea Stream, we’ve extracted more than 2,500 best practices and 40 products since launching our innovation platform in 2011. We use a double-loop design process that allows not only for creativity, but also for speed to market. Ideas are vetted cross-functionally by expertise-focused review boards and more than 200 innovation champions working around the world. And by experimenting with advanced technologies like 3-D printing, we’re strengthening our “fail fast and fail early” model for products and services development.
It’s no surprise that innovative companies across the world generate higher total shareholder returns compared to their peers; they’re not leaving it to chance. By striking the right balance between discipline, focus and creativity, you’ll be in the best position to create value and accelerate transformation. Reliably.
Interested to find out more about Future of Work? Learn more about our outlook on the changing world of work here.