Innovating is one of those things all businesses think they should be doing, but may not know how to actually go about it.
Your business may have already come up with a game-changing idea or product in your industry, but that doesn’t mean you should stop there (did Apple stop innovating after releasing the iPod?) Or you might be looking for a way of making a splash or putting your business on the map.
If you’ve been doing the same things the same way for years, you need to start innovating to keep your company relevant and profitable. Here’s our complete guide on how to cultivate business innovation for success and growth…
What Is Business Innovation?
Innovation is often thought of as that lightning bolt of inspiration; the idea that pops into your head and wakes you up at night. But it can be worked on and developed as much as any other business practice or technique.
It doesn’t have to mean coming up with a futuristic new product or ground-breaking new service either. It can be an innovation in the way you do things – something that has a big impact on your efficiency or productivity. Or an innovation in how you deliver your services or communicate with customers. It could mean taking an existing product and making it bigger, smaller, adding a new feature or finding a new use for it.
The likes of Uber and Netflix didn’t necessarily invent anything new. They simply took existing products or services (taxis and television respectively) and thought up new ways of delivering them. The vacuum cleaner had been around for almost a century when James Dyson revolutionised it with his bagless cyclone technology. He saw a pain point in an everyday item and came up with an innovative solution that changed the vacuum cleaner market forever.
For service-based industries, innovation could mean embracing new technology or AI to improve efficiency in delivery or operations. It could mean adding extra value for your customers with enhanced services that are quicker, easier, more comprehensive. For example, the launch of Amazon Prime created a whole new type of Amazon customer, one plugged in to all its premium services in music, shopping and programming.
Businesses that don’t innovate will eventually get overtaken by their competitors; those companies that are out there creating exciting new products or developing clever new working methods that boost productivity.
Your offering will slowly become obsolete if you don’t change to keep up with the market and consumer expectations. Standing still is not an option, so let’s get innovating!
Building An Innovation Culture…
There are many actions you can take to cultivate innovation in your business, but you need to firstly get into the innovation head space.
It may have been some time since you changed things up in your business and people can be stuck in their ways. You’ll need to start embedding the idea of change and innovation into your company culture. Encourage your people to look at things differently and give them the freedom to come up with new ideas, no matter how crazy. Create a safe space where they can make mistakes. It’s all part of the creative process; injecting fresh energy and building that ‘buzz’ within your business.
Allow your people to use their imaginations. Tap into their individual strengths and talents and set them to work on an idea that suits their skillset. Ask your workforce how they think you could improve your products or services. What works well and what doesn’t? What could you add and what should you take away? Something as simple as a suggestion box is a good place to start, or holding some brainstorming sessions.
If you really want to go to town with business innovation, you will have to invest serious time and money into research and development. You’ll need the resources to try out new ideas, whether that’s putting a specialist team together or getting the right IT infrastructure in place.
It’s also important to recruit the right people. Aim for a diverse range of thinkers and hire those that approach problems creatively and are willing to throw ideas into the mix.
Where To Find Innovation…
Inspiration doesn’t always strike out of the blue. Sometimes you have to go looking for it. Here’s a few simple places to start your search…
It’s absolutely fine to look at what your competitors are doing. It might alert you to a change in market trends heading your way, and you can start to plan your own response to it. You may notice consumers becoming unsettled with your competitors and ready for a change of direction. Your company could be ready to step into the gap and give them a new innovation to focus on.
Customer feedback is one of the easiest ways of finding out how you can improve your offering. If there’s a customer ‘pain point’, you need to jump onto it fast and come up with an innovative solution. Encourage customers to leave comments or reviews and look at their complaints. Are there any issues that come up time and again? Is there something that they would like to be able to do with your product or service that they can’t already? Take their input and get your people thinking creatively about how to improve what you do.
Sometimes looking outside of your own company for innovation can create an inspired new consumer offering. Look for a complementary company with similar ideals to your own, and think about what could happen if you combined the best aspects of your two products or services. Think about Meerkat Movies – Odeon cinemas and a price comparison website joining forces to offer consumers extra rewards and incentives. Or how about Mercedes and Swatch coming together to introduce the Smart Car? The options are endless.
Taking a look back in time can be a fruitful source of inspiration. Products that have seemingly fallen out of fashion forever could be ready for a come-back. Or products that look to have been overtaken by technology can be re-marketed to great effect. For example, it looked like Polaroid cameras had had their day with the explosion in digital photography, but the company has managed to carve out a quirky niche, marketing their product as cool and retro.
Innovation doesn’t always come naturally. It’s something that has to be worked on and built into the very fabric of your company culture. You need creative people in place and you have to give them the opportunity and freedom to come up with ideas. Innovation doesn’t have to be mind-blowing, sometimes the smallest tweaks can make the biggest difference. If you need to shake things up and start thinking differently, we can help you cultivate innovation in your work. Sign up for my free video series on The CPR Method and how it can transform your business…