Innovation is one of the most globally debated terms in business today. With technology and consumer behaviours changing at such a rapid pace, we are all affected by innovation across many aspects of our lives. I’m sure you would be familiar with the term – ‘innovate or die”. Well nothing truer could be said in today’s society.
Since this is a blog about why your business should adopt an innovation strategy, I thought it important to define what innovation is, why it is critical to your business and of course offer some strategies on how your business can become more innovative.
What is Innovation?
Innovation can be described as the changing or improvement of a process or product. The main factor is that innovation is different from creativity, it’s the uncovering of new ways to do things or produce things.
Why is innovation critical to the success of your business?
Innovation offers far-reaching benefits to your business, team, workplace and brand. It gives your business an edge in penetrating markets faster and providing a better connection to developing markets in this highly connected world. Innovation will help your business be relevant, adaptive and can help develop original concepts, keeping your business ahead of the game.
Core benefits of an innovation strategy?
The core benefits to business, no matter what size, in adopting an innovation strategy are listed below:
- Engage and inspire people
- Empower people to create, invent and innovate
- Achieve business goals
- Improve bottom line results
- Increase business value and profitability
- Perceived as more attractive to shareholders
- Perceived as more attractive to future job seekers
- Increased ROI to shareholders
- Strong competitor to industry disrupters
- Increase market share
- Extended product lifestyle
- Responding quickly to market pressures
How your business can become more innovative?
Innovation is more than just that one big idea. Developing or adopting an innovation mindset doesn’t need to be represented in earth shattering changes to your business. Implementing small, incremental changes that shape the way for continuous improvement is the most effective and sustainable approach.
Here are a number of insights on how to adopt an innovative work environment.
- Develop an innovation strategy
Together with your team’s help, develop an innovation strategy that details how the business will improve its processes, services, products, marketing and/or its business model. Once this strategy is developed, identify how you will keep to the plan and who will be responsible for monitoring its progress.
- Engage your team
Bring the right people together (this could be staff or it could be your social network) who have intimate knowledge of your business or industry and who will offer you the best source of ideas and how to best achieve and implement them.
Your team are critical stakeholders in the innovation process and the importance of this step cannot be underestimated. If your team are not on board with the strategy and its development, then the strategy will fail.
- Ideas come from everywhere
Look for ideas and feedback from suppliers, customers, clients and other stakeholders. It could be as simple as adopting a new process, adapting a new product enhancement or developing a new market.
- No idea is too crazy
Don’t let yourself and/or your team be stifled by “crazy ideas”. Being innovative means straying off the beaten track from time to time. Try not to be bound by any limits when in search of creative ideas.
- Build an idea’s management tool
Depending on the size of your business, this tool could be a large, powerful integrated system or as simple as an Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. It is, however, important to keep track of innovative ideas so that they are not lost.
- Educate yourself
As the leader of your business or innovation team, be sure to educate yourself on innovation, change and creativity. Go to conferences and travel to experience new ideas, concepts and systems.
- Stay on top of trends
Keep your eyes and ears peeled on what is happing in your industry and in the market place. Keep an eye out for new trends, travel when provided the opportunity, read everything you can that is relevant and some things that aren’t, where possible experience what is going on around you in your industry. Broaden your horizons.
- Be prepared to take risks
Not all innovations will work the first time, be prepared to take risks.
- Take action
Nothing great comes from inaction. Don’t be afraid to take action, even if your innovative idea fails, have faith that you are on the right path and keep trying. If you unsure, test your idea before moving full steam ahead.
- Review and adapt
Set aside time to review your innovation and be prepared to change and adapt what has been implemented if it’s not exactly how you want it to be or the target market doesn’t love it straight away. Remember, an innovation focussed business is all about small incremental changes, not just that one big idea.
- Celebrate success
Recognise and celebrate your successes. The greatest reward is having your idea acknowledged, adopted and actioned.
The final word
If you run your own business and want to become more innovative you will need to do more than just develop great ideas. Good entrepreneurs never stop innovating and if you want your business to keep growing, you need to keep coming up with fresh, new ideas on how to conduct your business in each and every aspect of it, great and small.
Engage your teams, whether this is your employee’s, contractors, suppliers or clients. Seek to regularly interact with these people. Consistently ask them the question – how can I improve my business? And make sure you listen to the answers.
This will provide the platform for innovation in your business.