Have you ever been in a company meeting where the word innovation or disruption is tossed around a lot? You know, executives want it, talk about it, press for it, but have no idea how to get to it or implement it. However, they know it’s very important.
“Ninety-three percent of executives surveyed by global professional services company Accenture stated that innovation is critical to their company’s long-term success.” -Inc.
As an employee, when you hear innovation talked about time and time again and don’t see any evidence of it actually occurring in the company, you will probably become disenchanted in what’s next. You will also most likely start losing your desire to go the extra mile for the company – this is not a good place to be for the employee or the business.
If the word on the street is real and innovation is just talked about in your company, that’s a sign that it’s time to kick-start an innovation strategy, start building an innovation team or activate a company-wide initiative so all employees have a shot at contributing and understanding why innovation is so important. If this is too much tackle, then stop using the word innovation completely and try something else.
At some point, your company must begin to think critically about innovating soon, or trouble could be right around the corner. My suggestion is to quit the false expectation of “let’s start innovating” and just get it started.
Where you think your vision for innovation is leading you is probably not going to be where you end up.
Let’s say your company has come to the realization that an innovation strategy must be job #1 in order to create sustainable growth. Whew, glad you finally got the go-ahead and the entire company knows – this is a good start. Here are a few common questions every business needs to answer to get the ball rolling.
- What does an innovation strategy look like?
- Where does your business start?
- What staff needs to be involved in crafting your strategy?
- Do you need a budget? — How much?
- Are there certain technologies that would be helpful to drive your innovative efforts? – What are they?
- Are there specific KPIs you should be aware of?
- Is there an innovation strategy template that your business can use to get started?
All of these questions are critical to answer and quickly. However, there are some simple things you can do to stimulate innovative thinking and actions before a formal strategy is drafted.
Innovation Begins With The Employee
Innovative ideas can, however, come from the most unlikely of people in your company. Your staff could be charged with developing a combination of fresh ideas born out of a desire to come up with something ground-breaking. Having the right employees participating in your innovation strategy is a must. It’s helpful if they are entrepreneurial in nature, understand the industry, technology and also are freethinkers and risk takers. This is a good place to start when looking for those people that could help spark your innovation activity.
I believe the concept of innovation begins with the employee being willing to think and take risks that are far outside what is considered normal for the company. In order for this to happen, the company must foster a culture that allows employees to try new things without being penalized. These same employees must also be able to present their new discoveries in such a way that the leaders in the company hear, understand and champion it. More on presenting later.
Start Your Innovation Research With Start-Ups
There’s probably no better place to start your innovation research than a start-up. Their employees are chock-full of ideas, confidence, and even chutzpah, which probably helps them through the tough spots. They also have battle-scars from trying to innovate and have experienced failure and success. Basically – they get it.
There are many lessons to learn from people that have already been down the road that you are about to enter on your innovation journey. Additionally, don’t hold back and keep everything a secret.
You need the collective intelligence of customers and other businesses that are more mature in this process than you.
[WATCH THE VIDEO] -Stanford Graduate School of Business
Ask the employees in the start-up how they are innovating in their business. Inquire about their innovation strategy and see if pieces of it will work for your company. You will be surprised how other companies and industries crossover, especially when it comes to innovative thinking and even predicting what type of innovation is valuable – or not. Use other companies’ previously laid groundwork to ignite your innovation strategy.
Pitching Your Idea
If you’re reading this blog and are thinking that you are the one who comes up with many good ideas that never get launched. You may want to rethink your process of how you pitch and sell the idea to your company’s executive team. Chances are, your pitch content and presentation style are too rushed, too long, and maybe they don’t provide enough detailed information to convince anyone but you that it’s worthy of pursuing. There are many nuances of a presentation that can make or break it.
Discover the areas and style that work for you and will also be the most effective to communicate your innovation plan to the executive team.
In order to convince others, you need to really inspire them to listen first, then by explaining succinctly and in detail what your idea is and why it will be great. Don’t forget, your business exists to make money, so your pitch must have some juicy information on revenue growth opportunities as well as the big idea. Sometimes your pitch requires even more, here are a few tips that may help your cause.
Create a presentation that uncovers a problem, shows how your idea will solve the problem in the market and also shows an estimated cost of production and delivery. Naturally, revenue projections are a must. Sometimes these types of ideas can be an internal product or service launch that can be accomplished with internal resources. These are some of my favorite ideas because it means the idea might be re-monetizing and re-allocating existing assets and using them in a different way that nobody thought about yet.
Your Business Does Need a Strategy to Innovate
Let’s get right to the point. Yes, your business does need a strategy to innovate. But, there is not one clear path for crafting an innovation strategy. Nor is there a one-size fits all for businesses to start the innovation process. In my opinion, some businesses tend to think innovation happens just because innovation is talked about in business meetings and employees are excited to toss around ideas. Unless there is a formal approach and plan, guess what, if you think it’s happening just because you hear the word innovation, you’re kidding yourself. Roll-up your sleeves, put a plan together and begin a culture of innovation throughout the company, you will be glad you did.
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