Innovation generally means creating more effective processes and products. For a business, it can mean the implementation of new ideas, creating dynamic products and improving current services and products. If handled correctly, innovation is a potential catalyst for business growth and success. It can also help your business adapt to and ultimately dominate a new market.
Professor of Business Administration and Head of Harvard Business School’s Technology and Operations Management unit, Gary P. Pisano, emphasizes the importance of innovation strategy for businesses. He notes that copying another company’s innovation methods is not the answer since no one system will fit all companies, neither will a certain system work effectively in all circumstances. You can certainly learn from the success of other businesses and their innovation.
Many businesses owners however, make the mistake of believing that if a certain innovation strategy works for another successful company, it will work in their organization as well. This is one way people mess up innovation in their business. An effective innovation strategy is one that matches your specific competitive needs.
Lisa Bodell, CEO of innovation research and training firm in New York, Futurethink, talks about defining your company’s innovation vision. Here are some important steps she outlines:
- Defining Your Challenges
This is the first step of an open minded approach to understanding the main barriers to innovation. Get your senior management in one place and ask them to honestly identify the main issues they believe are keeping your company from become a leading innovator. Here are a few questions to help you do that:
- List the companies that we admire as innovators. How can we best describe them? How are they different from our company?
- Should our company be agiler in bringing innovations to the market? If yes, then why is that?
- Has innovation conventionally been limited to a single department? Is there a need to improve innovative involvement across the organization?
- Has our company lost sight of our customers? Should we be listening more and focusing on the customers’ needs?
- What is our organization’s biggest threat?
- Does our company have the right people for addressing these issues or we need to hire people with new skill-sets?
- Defining Your Opportunities
Ask your senior managers for ideas on solving your organization’s challenges, listing the ideas as opportunities. At this point, avoid the temptation to analyze whether the solutions are feasible or not. Simply focus on envisioning a situation that would make those challenges a non-issue.
- Defining Your Direction
Out of the list of opportunities, select three to four that you think are most effective in overcoming the innovation challenges. Start a healthy debate about what would be the most impactful direction for innovation in your business. When you get a consensus, create a summary of the opportunities. These summaries will represent the innovative direction your company should take.
Failing to take an approach like the one above is another way business owners mess up innovation in their organization. Many business leaders and managers make the mistake of thinking innovation only means inventing, as in designing a new technology or product. However, as you can see innovation goes beyond the scope of technology.
Author Dan Pink also emphasizes the importance of developing innovation-friendly policies. Not creating such policies is yet another way how people fail to integrate innovation in their business. Innovation also includes evaluating your business model and improving it. Successful businesses read the terrain and survive market changes. And they have innovation to thank for it.
Fatima Mansoor is a writer at Aepiphanni, a Business Consultancy that provides Management Consulting, Implementation and Managed Services to business leaders and entrepreneurs seeking to improve or expand operations.
She is a freelance blogger, specializing in business & entrepreneurship, digital marketing, and health & fitness. Her focus is on creating compelling web content for small and medium businesses form diverse industries. She mostly writes for entrepreneurs and marketing agencies across the US, Australia and UK.
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