Innovation is the underpinning of the modern automotive company.

The industry is rapidly evolving with new technology megatrends like connectivity, autonomy and mobility infiltrating the vehicle.

Automotive innovation leads to best-in-class products, increased safety, new disruptive technology offerings and new revenue streams, but leadership at the highest levels must be engaged and aligned.

According to a recent study conducted by Twisthink, 93% of C-Suite executives believe innovation is important for their organization, but the research also reveals the path to innovation is not clear.

In fact, less than half of those surveyed have a dedicated innovation process in place. As rapidly as the automotive industry is changing, how can we ensure the longevity of our innovation pipeline and create a sustainable path for new ideas and discovery?

Define the Process

It’s nearly impossible to expect an organization to bring about true innovation without a process or methodology in place – yet a staggering 15% hope it will occur organically.

Innovation cannot be summoned with a snap of the finger. It is an ongoing journey of imagination, learning and creation.

The process can be simple, but at a minimum it should be designed to help identify worthwhile projects, research viability and desirability, allocate resources and funding and manage the project throughout each stage.

Leadership should be involved in pivotal milestones and decision-making, but innovation project teams must have enough autonomy to create and test along the way.

Empower Cross-Functional Teams

Too often functional teams are brought into the process in a sequential order. What typically happens, however, is that key considerations are ignored or forgotten until it may be too far into the process, resulting in wasted time and resources.

Conversely, creating a cross-functional team at the onset ensures the challenge is met by many differing viewpoints and expertise to develop a more thoughtful, solid solution. When a closely integrated, highly specialized group of individuals comes together early to solve a problem, the solution can be realized more quickly.

Create a Collaborative Environment

Our understanding of how the workplace environment affects the product and company productivity has come a long way. We have seen it is important to provide spaces that facilitate different types of work. In thinking about creating cross-functional teams, it is easy to see why open workspaces have risen in popularity among technology startups.

Beyond an open layout, consider the way teams are physically organized in the workspace, what tools are at their fingertips and the effects of light and music. For example, at Twisthink, we incorporated white board walls throughout our space to easily jot down ideas and collaborate practically anywhere throughout our office.

Respect Failure

The concept of celebrating failure is not a new one but often is misconstrued. While it is not wise to advocate failure as the end goal, it is essential to recognize failure is a necessary part of the process. The key is to fail fast and learn quickly.

If your team is afraid to fail, they are less likely to think creatively and take risks. As a leader, you have a role in setting the tone for how to respond to failure and how to capture and act on the lessons to keep moving forward.

A culture of innovation, while often difficult to define, usually is easy to spot. It’s a mindset reflected by a diverse group of people aligned in purpose and driven by the discovery of new possibilities that will lead them to a common goal.

These four criteria alone will not guarantee success, but when adopted will set your organization on a pathway to uncovering the new solutions and value.

Robert Niemiec is a managing partner at Twisthink, where he manages business strategy, day-to-day team leadership and business development.