Spend any time working in business and there is one phrase that you will certainly hear – innovate or die.
While creating true innovation is often likened to capturing lightning in a bottle, there are actually ways that the process can be considered, managed and adapted to ensure your organisation’s continued growth and success.
After all, in the business world today, those that don’t innovate will quickly find themselves being left behind by their competition.
So, what is innovation? When it comes to business strategy, innovation is the process of developing and implementing new ideas or ways of doing things in order to improve your offering, reach new markets or create additional value for your customers.
And while it might seem like a simple concept, the reality is that innovation is often hard to achieve. This is because it requires strategic thinking and a willingness to take risks – something that not all businesses are comfortable with.
However, if you want your business to thrive in the 21st century, then you need to find ways to overcome these barriers and start innovating.
First, consider and choose your competitive space, thinking about the services and products that customers need, the sector you want to break in to and the companies already in that area. Competitive sectors can be immature or mature depending on the nature of the space and what is being sold or provided, and this can determine your strategic approach. An example here – when Uber began in 2009, the ride-sharing industry was practically non-existent with few competitors, factors that drove their strategic approach and decision making processes.
For Uber – and anyone else entering an immature sector – an impatient strategy is often the one to start with. Fast and bare bones, the goal is to create a simple solution to fix a gap in the market. Uber built an easy to use app that paired an existing and plentiful commodity – cars and licensed drivers – with consumers who need transport.
If you’re entering a more mature sector, then a patient strategy will most likely suit your needs. Complex, forward-looking and relatively slow, this strategy relies on focusing on the end point, rather than immediate gratification. Future facing technologies that often require years of research, acquisitions and patents are best examples of mature sectors, needing a strategy that sees success pay off in years, rather than months.
Ultimately, the most successful companies use both impatient and patient strategies. They’re fast and agile when their industry is immature, and patient and forward-looking as their industry develops. Companies that toggle between the strategies are able to create more innovations in the long run than competitors that followed one approach, thereby ensuring the continued and successful growth of their business.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
1. Encourage creativity
If you want your team to come up with innovative ideas, then you need to create an environment that encourages creativity. This means giving them the time and space to think freely, without the pressure of deadlines or targets hanging over their heads.
2. Be open to new ideas
When it comes to innovation, there is no such thing as a bad idea. So, encourage your team to share their thoughts and suggestions, even if they seem a little out there at first. You never know – one of them might just be the next big thing.
3. Encourage risk-taking
Innovation requires taking risks, so you need to create an environment that is open to new ideas and ways of doing things. This means giving your team the freedom to experiment and fail, without fear of retribution.
4. Encourage collaboration
Innovation is often the result of collaboration, so encourage your team to work together to come up with new ideas. This could involve formal brainstorming sessions or simply encouraging them to share their thoughts and suggestions with each other on a regular basis.
Lastly, staying alert for signals to change and gathering knowledge are essential to understanding how to innovate and plan for it. Competitor analysis and understanding the market also help here and combining all these tools, along with understanding how to adapt and build your strategy, will ensure that your innovation never dies.
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Check out this Ted Talk to learn more about the Art of Innovation.