“Organizational culture eats strategy for breakfast” is a phrase made famous by Mark Fields, former president of Ford Motor Co. Nowhere is that saying more relevant than with 21st-century businesses wanting to compete in a global innovation economy.
Today’s business environment makes it a must for an innovative culture to be embraced by every level of an organization, from the C-suite to the manufacturing floor. With the proliferation of disruptive technology and global talent, today more than ever, businesses must rely on employees at every level to think outside the box and contribute beyond their traditional day-to-day roles.
A number of multinational companies in the Upstate have realized the value of instilling an innovation mindset into their business operations. Some are buying entrepreneurial startups to strengthen their position and innovate.
But few are organically growing an innovative culture from within. Many are finding it difficult to move outside their structured environment to create a culture where employees at every level contribute ideas toward innovation.
Clemson University’s MBAe program is evidence of the impact innovation can have on a business. Our part-time MBAe program caters to working professionals. From CEOs to managerial leaders, all are accomplished in their fields. Every day of the two-year program challenges these executives to think and execute innovatively in their everyday professional roles.
As a graduation requirement, each student must deliver an “Innovation at Work” presentation to illustrate how their classroom learning positively affected their businesses. The results of those presentations are eye-opening proof that innovative thinking can bring solutions to problems that result in bottom-line benefits.
Clemson’s MBAe candidates range from physicians, engineers, and health care professionals to manufacturing CEOs and executives in the customer service, energy, and retail industries. Their one commonality: Each is able to provide tangible examples of innovative problem-solving learned in the classroom that led to efficiencies and monetary benefits to their organizations.
By bringing innovation into their everyday business roles, these MBAe cohorts are essentially fixing the plane in flight. Their businesses continue to function uninterrupted as they put their classroom knowledge to work.
No matter the business, each MBAe presenter is able to validate the worth of innovative fixes to a problem:
Tom McFadden, a Greenville plastic surgeon, increased his business’ revenue by 19 percent in 2016, while expenses dropped more than 50 percent from the previous year.
McFadden attributed the revenue increase and expense savings to concepts he learned in the classroom, but also to cohorts, who themselves were proven business leaders. He said the cohorts’ contributions complemented his classroom learning, which enabled him to measure and refine different aspects of his business, Advanced Cosmetic Surgery.
Rick Seidman, CEO of Quoizel, a leading manufacturer and distributor of home lighting, grew his revenue by $2.6 million and profits by more than $750,000 in 2016 by creating economies of scale and synergies that didn’t previously exist.
Minimum viable product is one innovative concept Seidman implemented from the program. Rather than developing and presenting early product samples to consumers for their reaction, Quoizel began using 3-D images to survey customers, which resulted in significant cost savings.
Through classroom learning and collaborative input from their cohorts, these professionals made business improvements that over time will reap organizational and career rewards.
Collaborative application of innovation to a business problem isn’t limited to a classroom setting, though. Businesses are capable of and must create an environment so that every team member can contribute ideas toward innovation. Without a culture that encourages and rewards across-the-board innovative practices, companies will be following rather than leading their marketplaces.
Greg Pickett is Senior Associate Dean, Clemson University College of Business