Why bother to have a process for innovation?
In a rapidly evolving, or at least changing marketplace, there is typically a constant stream of business vying for the attention of a limited number of consumers in every industry, from commercial fishermen to clean energy companies. Even not for profit organizations and social enterprises compete for resources and the ability to survive.
Many times, as business leaders, we have heard the term “adapt or die” or something to that effect, suggesting that if we keep doing the same things we have always done, we will find that the market has moved on without us. You can look around at the marketplace at companies that failed to evolve. On the other hand, you can see the successes of companies that lead the marketplace and continue to thrive.
Take 3M, for instance…probably not a company that comes to mind, first, when thinking of innovators, but this is a company that is able to bring new products to market every year with the simple concept of making things better. Consider this; you may have some of 3M’s products in your office: take a look at their broad product offerings here. Of course, we are familiar with Apple, HTC, Samsung and many other market leaders who continue to find new ways to pique the attention of the marketplace.
The way these companies do this is by having an innovation process – a process by which concepts get moved from the idea stage to being launched. What makes the innovation process important is that once it is created, it can be tweaked and adjusted to help your company innovate faster. Bringing more products to market, faster, can be the difference between raging success and “keeping up with the Jones.”
While specific steps in the process will be different, depending on your business model, there are general steps you are going to need to take in order to make your offering a success:
1) Learn all you can about those who would be impacted by your innovation – inside and outside of the company. Get an idea of what it is going to take to develop and bring the concept to market. Know what new knowledge you will need and what new knowledge you will need provide your market with.
2) Create a business plan – including your go-to-market strategy. This can be a simple business plan, but it has got to make sense. If your expenses exceed your income, it doesn’t make sense.
3) Develop your concept. Not necessarily your end product, but enough to where you can test the product in the marketplace. It may not be perfect.
4) Test the market. See if your concept makes sense. Enlist members of your marketplace to help you make it make sense if it doesn’t.
5) Tweak. As you test the market, listen to their feedback. Change what needs to be changed, perhaps the way you bring it to market, your pricing, etc.
6) Launch and continue to test and tweak. Learn from your market. Don’t believe that just because you’ve built it, they will come. Don’t believe that once you have created a real bell-ringer, the market won’t change their interests or demands. Continue to learn.
Innovation as a process is one that should continue to evolve. Many of the steps that I have outlined have underlying steps. At each step, you must continue to ask yourself, “does this make sense?” Keep in mind that time to market could be the difference between having an extraordinary innovation and a failure waiting to happen.
Aepiphanni Business Consulting: The Business Strategy People is an Atlanta, Georgia based Operations Management and Business Strategy Consulting Firm dedicated to serving the needs of small to medium sized business leaders. We help business leaders DESIGN | CREATE | BUILD extraordinary businesses. We support our clients with financial management, product and service production and delivery, outsourced services management, sales & marketing and business growth. We provide them with a number of flexible solutions to help them reach their goals.
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