Every good business should know it needs to innovate. In short innovation helps good companies stay successful and competitive. If you’re an organisations serious about;

  • staying competitive
  • providing excellent customer service
  • having long term success

then read on. Chance are, you know you need to innovate, but you probably aren’t quite clear on how to innovate.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a one size fits all solution. Innovation varies depending upon a variety of factors. For example; industry, business structure, resources and mission statement.

There is no “one right way” to innovate. However, there are certainly a lot of wrong ways. In this post, we’re going to be looking at how to avoid common innovation pitfalls. So, without further or due, here are 5 things that every good manager or business leader needs to know about innovation (but probably don’t).

1 – Innovation Doesn’t Start With Ideas – It Starts With Solving Problems

The biggest myth we come across, is that people believe innovation is all about ideas. Whilst innovation involves thinking of ideas, brainstorming and white-boarding etc. There is far more to the innovation process before ever even beginning to think of ideas and solutions. For example, problem identification, and empathising with your customers should be the at the core of any innovation project. This is what innovation is all about. Identifying and solving business problems.

Innovation sometimes disrupts a market pace, or truly changes the world. However, that kind of innovation doesn’t start with a random brainstorming session. Instead, it starts with key business members identifying real business problems.

When a problem is identified, innovative working processes will then look to generate, test, prototype and validate ideas to see if they solve your business problem(s).

As a business leader, it’s important you understand that innovation begins with identifying a problem. Once identified, attention shifts to finding a valid solution in order to solve that problem.

2 – Innovation Needs To Be Empowered By Organisations

Innovation doesn’t come from just one employee. By simply hiring one “Innovation Specialist” doesn’t mean you are now an innovative organisation.

To become truly innovative, a business needs to empower an innovative culture amongst all members of the company. This means understanding how innovation can help and impact your business. Furthermore, it is important to be transparent with innovation goals and KPI’s across the organisation. Finally, being innovative means promoting collaboration and a passion amongst staff for problem solving.

An Innovation Programme will ensure that your organisation is ready to embrace innovation to enhance company success.

3 – If Something Truly Is New & Innovative – Start Small

Sometimes, an idea is so innovative that it’s the first of its kind. Whilst this is often a great thing, it’s sometimes hard to get people to buy into the unknown.

Remember when people had doubts about the internet in the late 90s? The doubt comes from the unknown – not because the solution isn’t great. In cases like this, it can be hard to get people onside when showcasing such a truly innovative proposition.

It’s hard, but with a truly innovative solution, sometimes you need to find a niche where there is an outcry for your solution. An organisation (or a small industry) so desperate, that they’ve already got budget set aside. Or are struggling with a scotched-taped DIY half solution.

Solutions “ahead of their time” are untested and unproven. However, by applying them to a case as mentioned above, allows you to implement a system and to test as you go. This then allows you to justify your propositions value through real world usage and data.

For these kinds of solutions, it’s often better to start off small and scale up. Bug test and fix as you go. Find out what works & what doesn’t. Master and perfect your solutions. Then, when it’s perfected, roll it out across bigger sectors and bigger organisations.

4 – Be Prepared To Try New Things (Whilst Minimising Risks)

For Innovation to benefit your business, decision makers need to get out of the habit of “we don’t do that”. Instead, managers should try and focus on “how can this help”. By cutting down on the corporate red tape and stringent rules, it will allow your organisation to be more open to new ideas generated from innovative work processes.

Innovation isn’t about taking unnecessary risks and trying a wacky new idea. It’s about adopting an alternative way of thinking. Innovative is about researching potential solutions, validating them and pushing ahead with those that are most likely to be successful.

Yes – innovation is about trying new things – whilst minimising the risk.

5 – Be Prepared To Change Your Business Model, If Your Business Depends On It.

Blockbuster, Toys-R-Us, Blackberry Phones – the list goes on. What did these organisations fail to do?

Innovate.

Blockbuster failed to adapt to a consumer shift in media consumption. Toys-R-Us failed to efficiently compete in the online space. Blackberry Phones failed to compete with touchscreens, doubling down on its keyboard focused devices.

Sometimes an entire change in business model is needed to stay competitive.

If a threat is affecting your industry, it’s important what it is, and why it is a threat. Attention should then turn to minimising this risk, whilst finding opportunities your company can exploit.

Ensure that environmental scanning is a core component of your business activity, so that you can be proactive to looming threats and secure long term success.

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