Preserving the core: Understand the reasons for innovation

May 16, 2024 Michael Flannery 4 min

Technological innovation must align with the company’s core business model and values to maximize success and minimize disruption.

Companies with an innovation culture that embraces risk, fosters collaboration and grants teams autonomy are 60% more likely to be innovation leaders, according to a report from Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

The report recognizes top innovation leaders like Apple, Tesla and Amazon. Companies are under constant pressure to innovate like these leaders and often believe they need to capitalize on all the latest technology trends to keep up with competitors.

Yet, in their rush to reap the benefits of innovation, these organizations often lose touch with their core values and start to innovate just for the sake of innovation—even if it does not align with their principles. This approach undermines business continuity because innovation initiatives are not built on a solid foundation of the company’s core values.

Why it’s a challenge to keep a business core and innovation in harmony

The core of a company’s business refers to those elements that persist over time, with relatively little change. This core often directly correlates with the company’s bottom line and provides the foundation for building success.

A large and successful company like Amazon may have several different “cores” for its different business units—an e-commerce core, a web services core and even a streaming entertainment core. But when Amazon first started, it was a company with a central core vision. It sold products, primarily books, and did so as quickly and efficiently as possible.

When a company establishes a business continuity plan, it’s focused on the core business. What are the aspects of the business that must persist, without interruption, even in the face of a disaster or other emergency?

Most businesses have a single core focus that the rest of the organization revolves around and supports. Often, the organizational culture, the “unwritten code of conduct made up of core values, cherished beliefs and priorities,” directly supports this core. For some companies, including many of the world’s most innovative firms, “innovation” itself is a central value.

Technological innovation is often synonymous with “disruption,” for better or for worse, and that’s where a clear focus on maintaining your organization’s core is essential. The desire to keep up with the market and develop a cutting-edge reputation can drive companies to chase flashy tech that doesn’t fit well with their core business—and can even undermine it.

Should an average e-commerce company spend precious resources trying to replicate Amazon’s streaming media success? Is a portfolio of NFTs a necessary offering in 2024? Which AI tools are worth the investment, and which ones will “fix” processes that aren’t actually broken?

Organizations must evaluate new advancements on a case-by-case basis, with healthy skepticism and an eye toward measurable deliverables. They should resist “mission drift” that distracts from their core business model, while also being open to positive changes that modernize old ways of doing business. It can be a delicate balance that requires a shared vision and a sense of collaboration between tech and leadership teams.

Preserving company values while accelerating innovation

Companies typically include their official values on an About Us page, career site or annual report. MIT Sloan studied these values and found that the top five listed are integrity (65%), collaboration (53%), customer focus (48%), respect (35%) and innovation (32%).

However, when the MIT researchers took a closer look, their analysis showed that many companies do not “walk the talk.” There was no correlation between the cultural values a company emphasizes in its published statements and how well the company lives up to those values in the eyes of employees. Therefore, the first step companies should take to preserve their core values is to review them and ensure their innovative ideas, products and processes actually align with those principles.

For example, if a healthcare company’s core value is “customer focus,” it may want to look closely at how it innovates its contact center. It could consider implementing Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) to improve agent productivity while protecting customer data from security threats.

Or, if a restaurant has a core value of “collaboration,” then it may want to examine its back-of-house to front-of-house communication and add a Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) solution for customer orders. This innovative service protects transaction data and improves team collaboration, using technology to enhance the core of the business rather than undermine it.

Ideally, technological innovations should enhance your core business model, support your values and enable business continuity. New tech can help your business perform better and make your employees happier, all while defending the essential heart of your organization.

How to maximize the benefits of innovation

Changing elements of a business is never easy, and change doesn’t come without some risk. However, embracing technology that aligns with core values and enhances a company’s core business can be a crucial driver of continued success and advancement. At Windstream, we know this well, which is why we put these tips into practice and have clear expectations across our organization regarding our operating principles and our path forward.

If you want to maximize the benefits of technological innovation for your business, follow these tips to ensure alignment with your core values:

  • Conduct a risk assessment: Identify potential disruptions and strategize solutions to innovate safely and effectively.
  • Practice incremental innovation: Small changes made over time allow a company and its employees to gradually adapt and evolve.
  • Involve key stakeholders: From the IT team to the C-suite, get perspectives and feedback before implementing new projects.
  • Train employees: Develop programs to educate teams on how to innovate within the company’s values framework.

Finally, consider partnering with a tech provider that understands the new world you’re getting into. Windstream can help your organization preserve its core, embrace innovation and maintain business continuity—all at the same time.

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Key Takeaway
Change isn’t inherently valuable. Innovation that enhances your core business and preserves continuity is the key to continued success.

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