Innovation, is quite a buzzword, and gets thrown around quite liberally in some circles. But inside business walls, what does innovation really mean? Businesses need to not only keep up with an everchanging market landscape, they also need to be able to forge their own way by improving, both the external and internal parts of the business. Innovation is not only a tool for survival in a threatening environment, it’s also a tool for internal processes in a company, because sometimes the threats are within the business too. There are ways to induce innovation in your business, through training, process audits and change management. This all sounds pretty “Bear-Grylls-at-the-office” at the moment, so let’s unpack it.
What is innovation?
Professor and author, John Bessant recently stated in an interview that “people conflate ideation with innovation… innovation means creating value from ideas… the most common [mistake] is putting everything into an idea and never getting actual innovation”. Innovation is not a single idea, but an iterative journey guided by an idea. (Rahim 2017).
A lot of the emphasis around innovation is put in maximising commercial value – improving a business’ product for example – but there are other channels of innovation too. The business’ internal processes or workspaces could be improved through innovation. This could have a knock-on effect and increase output, or even create a positive culture in the workplace, which in turn, could improve brand equity, customer satisfaction and eventually, your bottom line.
The dangers of not innovating
Innovation in a running business is important, not because innovation directly increases profits, but rather the inverse. Not fostering innovation is the danger. Not every business will become a major innovation case study. Your business might get there, but that’s not what innovation is for. Innovation is metaphorically sharpening your tools so you can work faster and more accurately. Innovation comes with its own risks of course, but those risks don’t outweigh the dangers of a complete lack of innovation.
Innovation is metaphorically sharpening your tools so you can work faster and more accurately.
How do you do it?
“Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” a famous quotation attributed to the late business management guru Peter Drucker” (Hyken 2015). Your organisation needs a culture that supports innovation, and management needs to make innovation a requirement (Kalb 2013).
How about a case study, a success story that saved a company from failure? The manufacturing giant, 3M was on the brink of bankruptcy and decided to take the risk and pay its employees to spend 15% of their time making or working on whatever they wanted. This strategy paid off, as a group of employees created the Post-It-Note, a now ubiquitous piece of office stationery without which, some people couldn’t dream of working. (Kalb 2013). 3M knew that innovation was the best way to fix their sinking ship, a good idea made great through innovation.
The logistics of introducing innovation into your business could be brought in through various methods. It could involve the entire organisation in a “fire-side” chat or a similar open forum. It could be set aside as upskilling individuals in training through a digital learning solution (which TTRO has considerable experience in creating). Or a combination of both, fostering a sense of mutual benefit in the success of the business, while still emphasising the individual rewards of personal growth.
Now for the tough part. Failure is probably the most difficult and – ironically – the most internally disruptive part of innovation. Failure is inevitable, and how you deal with it will determine your business’ future. “Innovative companies recognise that failure is an important step in the process of success” (Kalb 2013). Without failure, success can’t be measured accurately, and without that measurement, the next step in a business strategy could be difficult to plot.
Innovation is unfortunately, not a button that can be turned on, it’s a long and potentially difficult journey. At the end of the day, a good idea is just a good idea; innovation is the journey that brings that idea to life. Inside every successful business is the story of innovation, whether its inside or outside the business, innovation plays a part. Ensure that your business is flexible enough to include innovation as a requirement.
Hyken, S. 2015. Drucker Said ‘Culture Eats Strategy For Breakfast’ And Enterprise Rent-A-Car Proves It. Forbes.
Kalb, I. 2013. Innovation isn’t just about brainstorming new ideas. Business Insider.
Rahim, H. 2017. What is innovation, and how can businesses foster it? The Telegraph.
Author: Simon Pienaar
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