4 Steps to Create an Innovative Company

Innovation seems to be the keyword for 2017. Everyone wants to be a disruptor. Not everyone knows what this means or how to do it. Innovating isn’t easy. It takes a creative mind, the freedom to use it, and the resources to implement it. Innovation isn’t something you can buy. It’s a completely custom solution.

Last week I ventured back to the Atlanta Tech Village to hear No Talking Points – Innovation and Disruption are the New Norm. Guest speakers were Adam Zimmerman from the Atlanta Braves and Peter Sorckoff from the Atlanta Hawks. They sat down with us to talk about how they are fostering innovation in their companies.

I wasn’t sure what to expect since I don’t watch sports very often but the panel was not about that. That night, I was able to geek out over how these sports teams are doing business. With every new example that Zimmerman or Sorckoff gave, I got more and more excited. “This is it!” I thought. They understand it. These guys know how to play the innovation game.

Did you know that the Hawks were rated the 3rd most innovative sports teams by Sports Illustrated in 2016?

What was most interesting for me was what these sports teams are doing as a business to drive innovation. Sorckoff and Zimmerman talked about how they drive innovation from within their organizations. They do it by creating a flat horizontal structure. Being a culture of innovation means having a big idea, even if you aren’t sure how you’re going to get there. A great example is John F. Kennedy telling the world that we were going to put a man on the moon. Kennedy didn’t know how we would but he believed that the American people would use their minds to find a way.

A real-life example that the Hawks are working on are smart stadiums. Imagine this, you’re in the vicinity of the stadium and your car asks to take over. You already have a pre-registered parking spot. Your car takes you straight to your spot. There are no cars blocking the intersection or people honking at each other. Autonomous vehicles are controlling the flow of traffic.

Once your car parks itself you make your way to the stadium. When you get to the entrance, you scan your thumb on a bio reader which determines you are clear to enter without the hassle of extra security. At the entrance to your row, another robot greets you. It asks how the traffic was from the city you came from, dispenses your favorite beverage, and highlights the way to your seat.

How cool would that be? Well, that’s already in the Hawk’s game plan. How did the Hawks get there? By being curious, because that’s where the innovation happens.

It was exciting to hear Zimmerman and Sorckoff talk about where they envision augmented and virtual reality in their business model. For Zimmerman, he believes, “AR creates all new interactions. It will be a new revenue stream.”

In baseball Zimmerman said there are three types of fans. The ones that want to disconnect from technology and enjoy the game, the ones that want to go in and out of phones while they watch the game, and the ones that want to live the game through their phone. Knowing this, Zimmerman has started to think about what they can do for each of those fans. Turner Stadium has great wifi but they had to think about what they were going to do with that fast internet. “Comcast gave us super fast internet. What can we do with that? Web-based AR.” How cool would it be to be to see player’s stats in mixed reality while seeing them play in real time?

4 Steps to create an innovative company:

  1. Look inside your company for the innovation.
  2. Give your employees dedicated “innovation time”. Give them time to be creative.
  3. Realize that some of that time may produce a “failed” result.
  4. Support what the ideas they come up with. 

After attending the talk last night, I am an Atlanta sports team fan.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.


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