Let me ask a quick question. What is the one success factor that every business must embrace? Not sure, what I mean? Here is another tip! It is so important that Businesses will eventually die if they do not embrace it. Still not sure? Ok! Without further suspense, I am referring to ‘Innovation’.
The pace of change that we are experiencing today has never been experienced before. With the improvement in transportation and communication, world is becoming a one big market place. Businesses are under constant pressure to rethink their Business models, architectures, products/services suite, processes to deliver value and increase revenue/profitability. Old techniques of mere product differentiation, branding and marketing can take us so far.
So, what we should do? The answer is simple! Keep on innovating to deliver better value to our stakeholders. You might be thinking, what is so special about it! Well, let us dive little deep now.
Let us first focus on definition of word ‘Innovate’:
“Make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products”
We can draw following inferences from the definition:
- It means innovation is not invention or discovery. Therefore, we do not need to be a scientist to innovate
- Innovation is about continuous improvement. It has no end date. Therefore, it is not a project-based initiative
When we think about innovation, generally something flashy, catchy or cool comes to our minds. It may be Apple’s iPhone, Samsung Note and Gear, Amazon Kindle or Starbucks coffee. Note that for any innovative product, supplier has actually innovate every little step of the product to create that Wow experience. Further, it is important to note that supplier has to continue innovating to fulfil his business objective. It is never ending journey!
Now, we know little more about innovation. You may be thinking how we can be more innovative. Here are my thoughts!
Key characteristics of Innovation:
- Innovation is continuous effort for improvement: Innovation is about continuous improvement in everything we do as a business. It is reassessing, rethinking, readjusting, redesigning everything we do as the business. It includes (but not limited to) improvement in Business Architectures, Business Models, Hiring staff, Firing Staff, Acquisitions, Policy, Customer service, Cleaning procedure, Health and Safety and the list goes on….
- Innovation in not a one man’s job: Though Leader is responsible to create an environment that promotes innovation, but innovation is not a one man’s job. Instead, it is a team effort with one objective in mind “How we can make things better?”
- Innovation needs to be built into culture (part of DNA): Leaders last for years. Businesses lasts for decades and centuries to come. Visionary leaders do not just run programs like ‘Year of Innovation’ or ‘Innovation day’ etc. They focus on long-term strategy to develop and promote culture of innovation within Business. Yes, it is a journey!
- Innovation should support company’s vision, mission and strategy: Being a Sales executive in Bank, if I have found an innovative way to trick customer and make easy sale (which is against Bank’s policy), do you call it innovation? No! Innovation must support your Business vision, mission and strategy.
- Innovation is about solving real world problems: If you are improving something but not solving real world problem, you may be pursuing your hobby or self-improvement. It is not innovation!
Here are some tips to promote innovation:
- Cut Red tape
- Promote others to Speak-up
- Promote being questioned about anything (within purpose obviously!)
- Promote Listening
- Promote Diversity (Sex, Culture, Age, Education, Experience, Personality)
- Promote Collaboration
- Promote Agility
- Promote Experiments (ideas, theory and so-called facts)
- Promote Delegation
- Promote measured Risk
- Promote breaking unnecessary rules
- Promote Engagement
- Promote Optimism
- Promote Care
- Promote Connection (Yourself, Clients, Peers, Manager)
- Promote finding, focusing and developing your strengths while always being aware of your weakness
Finally, I want to leave you with a question. Do you think you are innovative? What do you do to promote innovation at your work place? I would love to hear your thoughts.