Most people just see innovation as a rare big bang. It's a lot more than that.
In reality, innovation is a series of little steps that, cumulatively, lead up to a big deal that changes the game. Yet in so many companies today, everyone defaults to thinking, "Innovation… Einstein. Edison. Jobs." "That's for somebody else, some genius."
The word just scares the bejesus out of everyone.
"I can't innovate."
"I can't come up with a new theory of relativity or a new lightbulb or a new iPad. I'll leave that for the crowd over there to do."
That's all the wrong headset. Organizations should make it their mission to reward every little incremental improvement their people make. There's a saying we've been using for the past 15 years or so with all the companies we work with: "Find a better way every day."
It's not just a slogan, it's an operating principle. You want to engage every single person on your team to find a better way. You want to champion them for doing it and make a celebration out of what they improve, whether it be a more efficient accounting system, launching a new customer program, or making a screw in a factory turn a little faster to make things run a little better. Those are the real innovations. And together, with every mind in the game, they are what makes a company competitive.
So when you think about innovation, don't let it scare you. Don't let it be a buzzword that isolates 10 people in your company while the other 90 sit on the sidelines, waiting for the innovators to innovate. You've got to make innovation everyone's job, all the time.