May 26, 2011

4 Innovation Q's To Think About Right Now – Why, What, Who and How?

Can you afford to wait for the recession to pass and continue doing business as usual on your old market (segment), your good old customers, and your good old product/service/business model?

Stupid question? OK. Sometimes it is good to ask them. It takes one to remind you about the obvious answer you are postponing to face.

You want to compete on this marketplace? I do. And your competitors do, too. This is one reason WHY you need innovation. There are more, but this one will do for today.

Even if you are doing great now, for the long term well-being of the company (business) you need to think about innovation in order to grow and even ''just'' to survive.

One CEO in Brazil predicted, ''The services that account for 80 percent of our revenue today will only be our second-largest source of revenue in five years.'' Have you seen something like this in your business already?

PWC annual global survey shows that innovation is one of 2 main drivers of the future growth, according to 1200 CEO’s from different industries and regions.

Do we all need to be geniuses now? It helps, but no. Innovation is not reserved just for a gifted few. It is a process that transforms ideas into commercial value. Ideas are not reserved for anyone, right?

Who Needs To Be Interested in Innovation?

  • Entrepreneurs
  • Intrapreneurs
  • CEOs
  • Business owners, me, you, and
  • Everyone with a job who would like to keep it, or improve it.

What Can You Innovate?

(1) Product and/or service

This type of innovation focuses on creating or improving a company's products and services.

(2) Operation, or process

Here you focus on making internal business process core strength. (Toyota has done this through its lean automotive production process)

(3) Business model

Business model innovation focuses on creating a new formula for the enterprise to make money. ( e.g. Apple has changed forever the way music is sold and distributed.)

Who Innovates?

If you don’t have R&D, or Innovation officer, who else can help you? Which functions are responsible for discoveries?

Innovation does include discoveries made by the R&D function, but it also involves the knowledge and efforts of people in other business functions (Finance, Sales and Marketing, Operations, Customer Service, etc.).

How? 5 Rules to Encourage Innovation

You can not hope for innovation as some random event. These rules will help you stimulate it:

1. Use strengths

Source and retain top talent at the right numbers and in the right places.

2. Create culture that stimulates innovation

Your company (department, group, or team) has a lot of smart people. Encourage them to be imaginative, give them permission to make mistakes, and give them time to just sit and think.

Build a culture that is "flat" and works across organizational lines.

Build the individuals into a team that enjoys being together at work.

Encourage communication and cross-functional conversation

Bring together the people of really different discipline and mindsets. Get them to find common language and unlock the ideas together. This cross-functional conversation spurs the imagination of each person and lets them learn from the skills of the others.

Control your ego. Seek the best possible answer without worrying where these ideas are coming from. Nobody has monopoly on good ideas.

Allow Failure - How many times did Edison fail before he found the right filament for the electric light To have a great idea, have a lot of them.~Thomas Edison

Do these things and you will get the innovation you need. For more on influencing culture read Top 10 Things that Influence Company Culture.

3. Prototype fast. Get the seeds of the idea in front of users. See if there is a reaction and spark before you bring back the idea.

4. Know your market and connect

Connect with customers. The most successful organizations co-create products and services with customers, and integrate customers into core processes.

They are adopting new channels to engage and stay in tune with customers. You have to address what customers now care about and reassess how value is generated.

''Consumers are now playing a much bigger role in the way that companies serve them. They are looking at the values of a company and its leadership. In the future we will see even more consumer-driven business decisions'', says IMD President Dominique Turpin.

Connect/collaborate with others in the industry.

You don’t need to invent everything yourself. Proctor & Gamble, as well as Eli Lily, are exemplars of companies employing open, collaborative innovation models.

In this video Larry Huston, former Innovation Officer at P&G, discuss the business model you need to implement in order to innovate.

5. Think and observe

It's easy to get caught up in repetitive activities and miss opportunities that are in front of you. Make a regular habit of just thinking and observing. You may be surprised by what you see.

Some bosses prefer to hire consultants to think for them, but if you would like to save money and use potential of great people you already have, (including yourself), then start finding the time for thinking.

You might not sit alone in a cabin for 18 hours a day reading and contemplating, like Bill Gates during his ''think weeks'', but you can at least start planning some time when you are not doing whatever is not directly related to future of your business/company.

Some Quotes on Innovation

Companies that squelch creativity can no longer compete with companies that champion creativity. - Hugh MacLeod

Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower. - Steve Jobs

The things we fear most in organizations — fluctuations, disturbances, imbalances — are the primary sources of creativity. - Margaret J. Wheatley

The world leaders in innovation and creativity will also be worldleaders in everything else.

What do you think about innovation in your business, company or department? Did you already tried or implemented any of these strategies with (no) success? Is there anything you would recommend?

If you would like to hear from me again with more valuable advice and great gifts to help you grow your business, or leadership confidence faster, please join my mailing list now - if not subscribed already. I will never abuse it and you can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of each message. Plus you get to download my 56 pages e-book Productive executive/manager secrets - Manage Interruptions at Work. You can occasionally take the advantage of complimentary Leadership Mastery Sessions I like to treat my readers with.

Image: Gregory Szarkiewicz /

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