In today’s rapidly changing environment, one of the key areas of focus for any business are innovation in order to respond to challenges and more importantly to drive business forward. Being in the forefront of innovation in technology, business processes and product & services are often deemed as essential for survival and a key differentiator against competition. The one who stands still runs the risk of lower profit margins or even vanishing.
- Innovation by definition is to make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products.
The truth is, few innovates despite it surprisingly not being as difficult as perceived.
Innovation can be done by implementing new technologies, changing business processes or enhancing products and services (or creating new one’s). Organisations, however, are typically challenged by three factors which prevents them from efficiently innovating; people, budget and inability to execute. Fact is, many organisations lack the tools to truly and effectively innovate.
- Innovation is therefore much about equipping and enabling your organisation for innovation; rather than the innovation itself. It is most about overcoming constraints set within the organisation.
I would therefore like to share my thoughts on 10 ways which organisations can innovate with ease.
- Copy someone else’s idea
Copy and paste! The truth is, this is what most organisations do. Look at competitors and do the same. Hardly ever much thought is spent on how to actually improve the product or the service. However, in order to do this successfully, it is important to make it unique and relevant by applying attributes of your settings; customer base, business processes as well as existing products and services. This will make a key differentiator for success.
The better way is to apply critical thinking to an existing idea and enhance it in a meaningful way that not only suits your organisation, but also improves the customer experience. Making an existing idea more unique in your market or industry, is to look outside of the idea itself it and apply it in the most appropriate way.
- Ask customers
Never shy to proactively ask your customers. Even reward customers for their ideas. Customers often have something to say about your products and services. After all they are the users of them. This is often a good way to get started with innovation. This will allow you to address areas of real importance, in particular to your loyal customers.
You’d be surprised of how much value can come from creating a channel where your customers freely can give feedback and how an ideal product and service would look lie.
- Watch your customers
Even better than just asking is to complement it with observing your customers. See how they actually use your products and services and learn how you can innovate new ideas to even better fulfil their needs. Often just asking the customers is not enough, instead by observing the customers how they actually use the products and services, this often gives ideas on how to complement the existing product and service portfolio. This can allow for innovating the small details, the one’s that matters the most. Think of how Heinz created the upside bottle!
- Don’t ask your customers, ask someone else
As opposed to asking your customers is to ask those who aren’t your customers. That is asking those who typically wouldn’t be a customer of yours or even a someone who would consume anything from your industry at all. You’d be surprised to learn how opinionated people are in general of your industry and it may unlock new ways of thinking which aren’t diluted by the current state of things. Thinking outside the box without consideration of the existing constraints often enables thinking of new ideas.
- Use simple feedback mechanism
If you don’t have a feedback mechanism in place, this will probably be one of the first things to enable. Make it easy for your customer to provide generic positive and negative feedback, and more importantly make sure you are monitoring and responding in a timely manner to these. Receiving and understanding positive and negative feedback is in any case crucial for improving your business in general. Feedback mechanism typically generates large quantities of items which can be converted to valuable ideas.
- Use the chef’s recipe
Take something you have, blend it with something new. Creating value by combining different ingredients can fuel products and services innovation and is undoubtedly an easy way of beginning innovation. Think mobile phone + camera.
- Go for take-away
Surprisingly, elimination of features and capabilities of your products and services can be another way of innovating them. It can open opportunities to look at your products and services in a new light. Needless to say, they can also be cost saving while they often better fit your customers need.
- Cross-functional team work
Hold regular brainstorm sessions to generate quantities of ideas. Make sure using diverge groups and ensure you have a provocative environment where everyone is allowed to challenge the traditional thinking. That is, it’s important to encourage ‘think different’ and avoid Yes-sayers in the group.
This is with no doubt the most common way in which organisation try to innovate. The problem faced is however the fact that people are lazy and in general don’t want change. In addition, people are too busy with their everyday work to think different.
- Time travelling is as hot as ever
Look at products and services currently obsolete in your industry and see if they can be brought back in a re-shaped and in an updated version. They became obsolete for a reason, but they also existed for a purpose.
- Subcontract the innovation process
An efficient way to allow for innovation when your organisation doesn’t have the capabilities or the time is to subcontract the innovation process. Besides automatically getting an outside view, unconstrained from organisational issues, it guarantees the use of a proven process which typically includes idea generation and validation to execution of the full process in a professional manner.
Though innovation certainly comes with a price tag, can you afford the costs of not innovating? Especially knowing that innovation in itself isn’t hard. Do you have the capability of successfully executing innovation?
Along the way of your innovating, remember:
- Equip your organisation…to move fast, with capability to ideate and execute innovations
- Encourage imaginative thinking, imagine what’s not there today
- Innovation is not always about customer experience, albeit often a great deal
- Innovate in small steps, don’t try revolutionise at once but don’t increment either
- Innovate with value, don’t innovate for the sake of innovation
- Expect to fail, great innovation is often preceded by earlier failure
Digital Retail and Innovation Specialist at Leapshift. Helping shift your business.