Is there one thing that drives innovation?  Yes.

As I reflect on the past year and on 2018, there is one thing I know for certain: innovation is at the core of Schwabe’s dedication to excellent service and each of our clients’ businesses.  Schwabe recently released Fueling Change, an in-depth look into the state of innovation in the Pacific Northwest.  Our goal with the publication was to identify trends in the marketplace and uncover key attributes that help our region’s most innovative brands stay at the forefront of new products and services.  What did we find?  I encourage you to read the publication to answer that question fully.

I’m often asked whether there is one thing above all others that helps separate truly innovative companies from the rest.  While acknowledging that a company’s performance is the sum of many critical parts, there is one thing that makes a difference: culture.

Here are three ways culture drives innovation:

  1. Connecting key initiatives to core values.  When Vigor Industrial wanted to make a game-changing investment in worker safety, the company’s leaders decided to put one of their top executives in charge.  They then directly tied their safety improvement objectives to the company’s core values, explicitly linking worker safety to the DNA of the company.  The increased communication around safety resulted in greater awareness among workers and, ultimately, in innovation.  A Vigor engineer created a new app for reporting and tracking safety hazards—a technology enhancement many attribute with a major reduction in on-the-job incidents.
  2. Rewarding initiative, not penalizing failure.  It’s no secret that within large organizations, fear of failure can inhibit innovation. People are less inclined to push boundaries if they think initiative carries more risk than reward.  Auto Warehousing Company of Tacoma, however, has turned this dynamic on its head.  Beginning with its founder, the company has always celebrated risk-taking and innovation.  Failure is never highlighted; the spirit in which you pursued the idea is celebrated, and the lessons are applied to improve products and processes.  This spirit has led to the development of industry-leading technology that has made AWC a market leader.
  3. Hiring people who are motivated to innovate. Columbia Sportswear is one of the most recognizable brands in the Pacific Northwest.  As CEO Tim Boyle puts it, “We’re not in the apparel business; we’re in the outdoor business.”  That’s an important distinction.  They make apparel designed to maximize the amount of time people can spend outdoors in inclement weather.  If you live in the Pacific Northwest and enjoy being outside—as Columbia’s innovators do—you are motivated to maximize your time and comfort outdoors.  You have innovators finding unique solutions to the same problems they and other consumers are experiencing.

Culture is at the core of innovation—the people you hire, the values they live on the job, and the trust you place in them to drive change.  At Schwabe, our challenges are no different than those of our clients.  We are changing in ways to adapt to the needs of today’s marketplace and maximize the value of legal services to our clients.

In 2018, we will continue to be focused on innovation to serve our clients’ needs, and we invite you to be part of that process with us.  If you have ideas or inspiration for how your law firm can partner with you in a more proactive manner, let us know.  If not, plan on hearing more from us after the new year. 

We hope you find Fueling Change as inspirational as we do, and we wish you all the best in 2018!

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