It doesn’t matter what industry you work in, what size of company you have, or whether you offer services, sell products or have a mix of both; with the market becoming bigger and more competitive, if innovation isn’t one of your top priorities, it soon will be.
Innovation- a term that revolves around coming up with new things, should by no means be a new term to you. Depending on the company, innovation can mean different things. To a bank, innovation may mean coming up with a new way of providing banking services to their customers. To a manufacturing plant, innovation may mean coming up with a new process to produce products quicker and at a lower cost. To a CPG marketing team, innovation may mean coming up with a new or improved product and then thinking up a unique way to market it. No matter how you define it though, after talking to some of the worlds most innovative companies on the subject, there are some commonalities regarding innovation:
- It has to make sense- There is no point in offering something new if it conflicts with the company’s image or goals.
- It has to be profitable- Innovative ideas are suppose to help the company become more valuable, not go into the red.
- It has to be feasible- There are hundreds of ideas out there, but not all can be implemented. If you don’t have the resources or capabilities at the moment, it is probably not a good idea to try to bring the idea to market. Don’t toss the “bad” ideas, other ideas may emerge from it or the barriers preventing it from being implemented may be removed in the future.
Most importantly, just as you need more than 1 piece of wood to build a yacht, you need a more than one tool to remain innovative. In order to stay afloat in today’s world and catch that “big fish” or a net of small ones, a company needs:
- Culture- You need the right weather and water conditions to survive on the water.
- People- Once you know what kind of boat you are going to build and the steps you want to make, you need to either hire or train people to work the ship. Can you partner with others? If you are hiring people, are you looking for characteristics of leadership? Teamwork? Personal drive? If you are training your employees, is the training available to everyone? Is it occurring regularly? The answer needs to be yes.
- Tools– Without the right toolkit, it’s hard to build and fix a boat. Tools which may help a company be innovative (which are used by the top companies) include both internal and external tools, such as intranet sites, brainstorming rooms, allocating employee’s time to be innovative, and innovation labs.
Finally innovation shouldn’t be limited to internal work. Look at best practices used by other companies. Use your stakeholders- customers, partners, internal staff etc- to help think of new ideas. Bring in consultants to give a fresh perspective. It's not stated anywhere that innovation has to come from the C-Suite. Several of the largest, most innovative companies look to others to come up with a pool of ideas.
So is your company ready to be innovative?