Innovation can take the form of a product, a process, a way of working or doing things, an organizational structure, a recruitment method, a business or revenue model, or even how you motivate your employees. Here is where creativity, observation and data analysis can help enhance business innovation.
There are two ways to approach innovation on a business environment according to the Chartered Institute of Marketing: 1) innovation out of necessity – following the crowd to stay competitive; 2) innovation by choice targeting specific faults that can truly lead to success as they can be specific things that need improving or exploiting.
So, what is innovation?
According to Riccardo Weber, founder of True Innovation, innovation is solving a problem by finding a new solution that has not been used in this context previously; it is not only technology but the application of one, it is a mix of a new product and an addition (or invention), for example.
The optimal formula for generating innovation is the conjunction of idea generation and the actual possibility and skills to convert the idea into something tangible. For example, you can have a bunch of new ideas but falling short in converting them into tangible results due to the lack of process management skills, or the opposite, you can have good processes in place, but no ideas on the pipeline.
Being spot-on on what needs changing or optimising in your business can be the starting point for bringing innovation into your business. Bringing diversity of input into the innovation process is a must, and the innovation context strongly influences the ease or difficulty with which ideas are generated and converted.
What would you need to create and influence the innovation context in your company?
Enable deep and free internal and external communication by promoting brainstorming and exchange of ideas. Create a communication setting where all your employees/colleagues feel comfortable enough to contribute with their own ideas.
For example, you can create an internal communications network to enable employees/colleagues to mingle in a more diverse settings, this will encourage idea generation and exchange. A great example of how to incentivise and benefit from creating an appropriate communication environment is Google. Google employees were asked to spend 20% of their time working on what they think will most benefit Google, which later led to the birth of some of their products such as Gmail, Google News and Google Talk.
Encourage networking. Inbound thinking will come easier by strengthening the networks currently hold by the business with your employees, among them, and between them and outside individuals and businesses.
For example, you can encourage your employees to attend networking industry meetings (or even hosting one). Also, you can monitor what competitors are doing and seeing what you could learn from them. Getting inspiration from similar companies or even from other industries, can work as a fresh pair of eyes that can give you wider perspective.
The willingness to change and the capability to do so is directly corelated to how innovative a business is. In order to leave room for innovation, the business needs to change.
A good way to asses how good your business embraces change, is by analysing the most recent efforts of change in your business (new team structures, new recruitment process, new software implementation, etc…), how did they impacted the workforce and business itself, if the implementation was made correctly, and what was the outcome.
Actually, in this specific moment it is imperative to be open to and embrace change as many things at a business level will be different post-pandemic and we all need to adapt.
In this context, by analysing your business culture strengths and weaknesses you can identify where and what is holding you back; defining how an innovation culture would look like could help you decide where and how to change dynamics.
For example, do you need a fresh and a 360 approach? Search for the employees that have start up experience and understand the things that are done differently on a fast-moving environment like that one.
Data can additionally help in the innovation journey as it can provide a general overview of things and could help localize the flaws easier and faster. Moreover, data analysis will allow managers to take informed decisions (not only based on assumptions, observation or hunches) of what needs to be changed, added or transformed into a solution.
For example, data on foot traffic and consumer behavior in your physical stores, can give you information on how shoppers are using your premises: do they try on clothes but end up purchasing online? do they browse online and use your physical store to purchase? does that shop get enough foot traffic to keep it open? shoppers use your store as a touch point to interact with your brand or product but not as a purchasing channel? – all of these questions can be answered through data analysis.
In summary, after localizing where innovation can fit in your business, brainstorm into how the problem can be solved. Think broadly and think about technology, new methods, new people or new structures and processes that can help you generate a new idea.
The solution to the problem just needs to involve a component of newness and a component of change. The idea generation will come flawless by creating an appropriate innovation context, and the possibility of idea conversion into something tangible will come from mastering the key aspects we mentioned above.
Remember: what is not innovation is generating an idea, an invention, the development of a new product, a new marketing campaign, or a technology or technological advance.
Innovation is solving a problem by finding a new solution that has not been used in this context previously, it is not only technology but the application of one, it is a mix of a new product and an addition (or invention), for example.
We believe businesses affected economically by Covid-19 pandemic can leverage innovation to identify opportunities, act on them and recover faster. Also, remember to stay costumer-centric in whatever innovation you decide to implement. At the end of the day, customers are what drive revenue to our businesses and are the core pillar of our activities.