Here’s a useful to question to ask yourself so you can understand the difference between what is simply an idea and what could be transformed into a process of innovation:
“Innovation,” a term now so over-inflated that reactions to it reach a fever-pitch. Depending on the case, this term can turn into a miraculous mantra, a universal remedy, or a complete waste of time.
But how have we reached this point? Shouldn’t innovation be used in fundamental processes of successful businesses?
Fernando Trias de Bes, Catalan entrepreneur and marketing expert, together with Philip Kotler in their book Winning at Innovation, identifies 7 problems that have caused innovation to reach its current state:
- What does ‘innovation’ really mean?
Small, constant innovations are fundamental and should represent the norm, not the exception. Because of this, it is important to change your mindset. You shouldn’t think about innovation as something to be reached suddenly from one day to the next, but rather as a path with a specific destination which will one day be a completely astonishing game-changer. It is for this reason, within organisations, it is important to have a process which continually takes this path towards the production and implementation of innovative ideas.
- How is responsible for the innovation process?
These days, nominating an innovation manager within a business should be the rule.
Even though innovation capacity is essential for survival for most businesses, managers are often not identified as such. Often, R&D takes care of it, and the luckiest people in marketing form the exclusive club of innovators. But innovation shouldn’t just be reserved to members of a small club who lay down the law among themselves.
Innovation is a duty and a responsibility of the whole business
In this way, three types of innovation can be identified:
- Closed (carried out by single departments)
- Collaborative (carried out collectively in the business)
- Open (involving people from outside the business)
- What is the difference between innovation and creativity?
Finally, after racking your brains, the big idea comes! And then what?
It often happens that an idea full of potential remains inside an organisation for years, bounced around without anyone taking responsibility for managing it. This is a clear sign of creativity not being enough to create innovation.
We have already seen how the innovation process is supported and maintained in primis by people. Furthermore, it is important to create a process which ensures big ideas don’t just remain on the table but find a way to be adopted, creating a positive impact.
And thus comes the first difficulty: are we sure that innovation and creativity go hand in hand?
Very often, there is no shortage of creative people, but of figures in charge of managing the products of creativity and transforming them into innovation. Innovation requires creative people, but also entails determining clear goals and strategies, as well as the identification of resources and risks. Above all, managers must be identified at every step in the process of innovation, from the conception of the idea to its effective implementation.
- What is the price to pay?
A new challenge begins every day working day. We must work in such a way as to create profits while also looking to the future to understand how to innovate and to anticipate changes so that we can maintain our position and not run the risk of vanishing.
But it is incredibly difficult to ask ourselves to do things differently while we are in the process of doing them.
Because of this, it is difficult to innovate because innovation often requires change something which, at least for now, works. How many times have you heard the phrase: “But we’ve always done it like this”?
On the other hand, however, you must decide whether a bird in the hand is really worth more than two in the bush: a forward-thinking and enlightened entrepreneur wouldn’t have the slightest doubt which to choose. It is therefore about having the courage to change things which work, while you are committed to completing everyday tasks. There is no specific model which defines the right moment for change.
- Who is in control of the situation?
Businesses have well-defined rules when it comes to accounting or sales, for example. A shared frame of reference has not yet been developed for innovation, however. The process leading to innovation should have defined rules and there should be a consensus on which variables to monitor.
To be more specific, the real problem is monitoring innovation: without a frame of reference, without comparisons which don’t just stop at results, the process becomes nigh on impossible. It is necessary to attribute a suitable modus operandi to innovation, starting to consider innovation as part of operational management.
When responsibilities are designated to those within the innovation process, control becomes possible.
- Who coordinates the various aspects of the process of innovation?
How should you coordinate different departments which are all called on to contribute to the innovation process in their own way? The real goal of companies today is creating a culture of innovation which all members of the organisation share.
However, it is often possible to see a lack of coordination:
- Horizontal: coordination between departments and other subjects occupying the same level within the company. If everyone had a concrete interest in how ideas are developed, this would receive the necessary boost to be able to become strategy and transition from theory to practice. Often, the problem lies in the fact that the innovation process takes place in insular departments: someone has an idea, another develops, the next puts it into practice.
- Vertical: namely the coordination between management and the rest of the organisation. It often happens that new products are proposed which management cannot finance, or which carry a bigger risk than what they are prepared to take.
This imbalance between business and innovation objectives is one of the main obstacles in the way of the successful implementation of the innovation process.
- Has anyone thought about the customers?
Here’s a useful to question to ask yourself so you can understand the difference between what is simply an idea and what could be transformed into a process of innovation: Does this idea increase the value perceived by the customer?
If the answer is yes, then the idea has got what it takes to be transformed into innovation.
Innovation is impossible if you don’t focus on the needs of the end customer. Ultimately innovation, when it arrives on the market, should be accepted by the client, and should persuade them to switch from a service or product they were already using to something new. This step isn’t always a foregone conclusion: often change scares us, hence the customer will be willing to do it only if the imagined benefits are far superior to those already offered by the previous product or service.
Because of this, innovation can’t be reached by brainstorming alone. After all, company members, despite their strong skills of deduction and the fact they represent a target sample, make up a small percentage of the mass of customers who may be affected by the innovation.
Many companies ignore these questions, though satisfactory results cannot be achieved without a sufficient response to them.
Do you want your employees to help you to create an innovation process? Read 5 ways to motivate and engage your workers.
Do you want help in introducing innovation to your business? 3 opportunities offered by Foxwin.