As marketplaces become increasingly crowded, businesses have to work harder to differentiate themselves from the competition.
An innovative idea, approach or product, something new, different, dynamic or inventive, can be exactly what you need to give you that edge.
Here are five things you could do today to help your business evolve into a more dynamic and innovative company.
1. Idea generation – it’s free!
There is a common misconception that innovation is expensive but in fact, the best innovations are often the cheapest and simplest.
It’s worth remembering that innovation isn’t just about shiny new products. So, for instance, when was the last time you mapped your customer’s journey and contact points through your business? Are there ways in which you can improve the process or use technology to make your customers’ experience unique and more pleasurable?
Looking at the smaller components of your business can often lead to a new innovative idea or approach. You can often solve problems by looking at things from a different perspective – rather than trying to think up what would be the best possible design, have a look at what the worst design would be and start your problem solving from there. Mindtools have some great techniques to get the ideas flowing.
2. Find your internal innovation champion
Most innovation fails because businesses don’t deploy the necessary internal resources or capability to drive a new idea to completion.
Quite often an idea is hastily developed by the CEO who believes it could be the next big breakthrough for the business. Some internal resource and capacity is found, often an individual with existing responsibilities, who is presented with the daunting task of transforming the idea from the improbable to the possible.
There is another way. There could be an ‘innovation champion’ in your business, someone with drive, passion and commitment and, with your support in terms of time and resources, could turn an idea into a new product or service.
Or you could make everyone an innovation champion. This is called disciplined innovation and creates an environment where innovation isn’t just left to chance but is a key focus for every individual.
Encourage employees to set aside a percentage of their time to work on projects of their choice. Google, for example, has its employees spend 20%, or one day a week, working on projects outside of their job description, using the time to come up with new ideas, or improve existing products.
3. Ask your customers
Businesses don’t need to always follow convention and sometimes it can pay to break the cycle and challenge the status quo.
Why have products been designed in the usual way?
Why have services followed a formulaic order?
Your customers will often have the answers and some of the most creative companies develop their innovative ideas by talking to their clients. To innovate you need to develop an understanding of your customers’ problems and tools such as ‘Empathy Mapping’ will help your team to understand how these can become important new opportunities for the business.
4. Collaborate to innovate
‘Open innovation’ is a buzzword in business and industry at the moment and recognises that innovation is rarely down to one individual or even a single company. Instead, true innovation occurs when clusters of companies or individuals openly and freely collaborate to bounce ideas around and work on new and exciting programmes.
Think about the innovation ecosystem in which your business sits. Could you collaborate with a University, a peer from another company or a different sector, or even a business within your own supply chain?
Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) are part-funded by Innovate UK and a great way to collaborate with a university and bring new skills into your business. Here at the Business Growth Hub, we’re developing partnerships of our own. We’re collaborating with the University of Manchester, University of Salford, University of Bolton and Manchester Metropolitan University to bring cutting-edge research and local businesses together. If you’d like to learn more about working alongside the universities, we can help - get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org
5. Trust your people
It’s often said – and always true – that people are the greatest assets a company has. So it stands to reason that you should trust in their knowledge and ability to develop solutions.
An innovation project is a great way to build team morale, develop a sense of purpose and show people they have a stake in the company’s future. Think about how you can create an innovative culture, where people are trusted to try new things and are rewarded for coming up with ideas and improved ways of working.
But remember the most successful innovation comes from trial and error and to avoid stifling creativity, it’s crucial to let people fail without consequence. Harvard Business Review have a great explanation on what to do when you don’t trust your team.