As a company, you want to be winning the innovation game. This easier said than done. Your market environment is continuously changing. New technologies arrive, customers’ needs evolve, global competition increases and disruptive startups turn your industry upside down. However, there is no need for despair just yet since two can play that game. All these potential threats bring opportunities as well.
You simply need to understand how to play your cards right. To help you move your innovation game to the next level, here are 6 tips you can start using today.
Thinking inside the box
With innovation, the primary focus for many is on thinking outside of the box, discovering new products and services and to developing the next best thing. However, companies sometimes forget to look at how to improve their existing services and products. Imagine the gains you’d make if you devise a way to complete your projects up to almost 5 times faster. So, get resources and teams in place to review and improve your current processes by adding more customer value to them.
Use your communities effectively
Besides the need to involve your customers directly in the design process with methods like agile, sometimes customers come up with the best ideas by themselves. Online there are numerous fan groups for a wide range of products. Here customers share their new product ideas or upgrades with each other, and you.
For example, Starbucks is a social media star with over 35 million followers on Facebook and another 16 million on Instagram. Starbucks actively interacts with and listens to these communities to discover new ideas for drinks or services. Furthermore, already all the way back in 2008, Starbucks launched the site My Starbucks Idea. A crowdfunding platform where it’s community can drop their ideas. Up to now, it has generated over more than 150,000 ideas of which Starbucks implemented about 300. It’s like having an extra creative team consisting of 1000’s of people.
Change the rules of the game
Don’t keep playing by the same rules if the rules don’t work for your business. The front-runners and the big companies usually set the rules in an industry. Time to change these rules by utilizing strategic innovation. Look at your industry and your business and ask yourself these questions:
- Who are your customers?
- What should and can you offer them?
- How should you make this offer?
Don’t limit care about how others did it yesterday and the days before. Think instead about what you should do it today to generate the most value for you and your customer.
Take a lesson from Amazon.
Amazon tore up a rule which was the law of the land for hundreds, if not thousands, of years:
Books were to be read in hard copy.
The people at Amazon threw that rule in the shredder and introduced the Kindle E-Reader. The rest is history. Today, Amazon is selling more online books than all other online retailers combined.
Add customer value and then some
The premise that innovation is about inventing something new is not correct. For example, the Segway was thought to be revolutionary when it came on the market. It bombed. On the other hand, Starbucks just sold coffee, not quite a radical product, and it boomed. In 2017, there were 27,339 Starbucks stores globally. What’s the difference?
With a cost of about $5000 when it first arrived, the Segway was as expensive as a small car or a scooter but less useful. You couldn’t go long-distances with it, and it needed many hours of recharging. For those $5000 wouldn’t you walk or bike instead and use your car for the longer distances? That’s what most consumers thought. The Segway failed so badly since it didn’t add any value to the customers’ experience.
Starbucks didn’t invent a new product. Coffee did exist before Starbucks. What Starbucks did create however was a unique customer experience. It was the Italian coffee bar feel and function which inspired Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks. He brought this idea back to the USA by creating a coffee bar that was a space for conversation and community. A third place between work and home. The American customers loved it. It added a positive experience and thus value to their life. The rest of the world soon followed, except for Italy, where this experience already existed.
Set up a support system for innovation
Many companies want to be innovative powerhouses but fail to make the necessary structural investments in both organization and budget. Additionally, many don’t have a precise idea of where they want to be heading as a company.
Always make sure you have a clear mission and vision of what you want to achieve as a company. Like Elon Musk’s SpaceX mission to: ‘revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets.’ It’s clear, concise and gets the message across.
Once you know where you want to go, you need to make sure you put your money, or resources, where your mouth is.
Constant innovation requires constant investment. Start structurally allocating resources like time, money and people for innovative projects, as you would do for your standard operations.
By having a mission and putting permanent resources toward innovation, you’ll be growing a robust, innovative culture, and you’ll see your innovation accelerate.
Connect your innovators with your salespeople
In your organization, you’ll have people who are excellent at coming up with new concepts. Who follow trends religiously and discover things that might work for your business as well. However, these creatives are not always the most equipped to bring these ideas to the attention of the broader organization and the decision-makers.
For this, you need your sellers. That doesn’t mean your sales team, though it could be. Sellers are the people who know the inner workings of your organization, both formal and informal, who have a broad and active internal network and are considered influencers.
You want to organize structural opportunities where these 2 type of employees can meet, exchange ideas and information and as a result strengthen each other and your innovation. This way, great ideas don’t die a silent death in someone’s office but reach those who can ensure the idea gets tried out and maybe even implemented.
There is no one way to innovate
Even though all these steps will help you, there is no one-size-fits-all for innovation. There are the new companies like Uber and Airbnb who changed the rules of the game and in a short time span command markets and wield enormous influence. While, on the other hand, you have the big ones like IBM, 3M, and even Apple, who’ve been around for decades, seeing competitors rise and fall, while they keep on improving their game.
You need to discover what works for your business to stay ahead in the game of innovation. We consult many small and big organizations on their business strategy. Contact us and let us help you to become even more successful.