Innovation – a word that is so often spoken of. We all know that innovation is crucial for companies’ survival on the market (if you don’t trust me, remember Nokia and Blackberry), but what exactly does that mean? What can we do to become an innovative company with a culture supporting new ideas? What are the mistakes we should be wary of?
Innovation, in short, is everything that brings added value to the consumers.
Looking at history, we can find a variety of inventions, such as penicillin, the wheel, or a printing press in the list. Nowadays, with the evolution of the Internet, 99% of innovations are directly related to the technology and digitalization of the daily services – and that applies even to the services that are by their nature, not technological.
A majority of companies imagine innovation being only technology, and mostly – something tremendously big. The truth is that innovation is much more complex than that. Yes, sure, the result of any innovation should be an improved functionality adding to the customer’s value, but not all innovations trigger a big bang in the world – some are quite small. And it’s fine to have a balanced pipeline of “small” and “big” ideas leading to innovations. Don’t get to your head that everything that’s innovative has to be big. Encourage ideas – ALL ideas, no matter how small they seem at the beginning. You don’t know what will become of them, and how much of the added value they create for your consumers.
Where to begin?
We all agree that innovation – any innovation – is about ideas. Execution of those ideas is about your company’s culture. If the creation of the new ideas is not well supported within the company structures, often, people won’t share them. Hence, innovation is something that should begin within your internal ranks, company’s culture, and your ability – as the leader, to inspire your people to open up about the ideas, and more importantly, help them to execute them.
Coming up with the ideas is relatively easy, fast, and cheap, but then those ideas need to be materialized, and more than that – you need to implement them to your long-term vision, and strategy, communicate them properly inside and outside of the organization too.
This is where companies often fail, by not providing the required level of time and budget to take a rough idea, refine it, experiment on it, and finally turn it into a real solution. That’s why we, in DEV PACK, started with the INnOVATIOn initiative. Anyone with a good idea can represent it to us, with the presentation of the added value to the end client. If we find it viable, we’ll support the execution – by helping with implementation, methodology, even with the financial and coaching support. And now, we’re not limiting those ideas only to our consultants and employees, we’re encouraging everyone – in and outside the organization to get in touch with us, and share what they have. Exactly because we know how hard it is to execute the ideas, especially if you don’t have the support system behind you. And that’s what we offer in the INnOVATIOn program.
What can companies do to encourage innovation?
First of all – adapt your company’s culture, because this is where everything will begin – and ends if you don’t grasp things properly from the start. Engage the dialogue – and engage it in a good way. Start with a conversation, ask questions. Create a space where is safe for people – even people outside your organization, to share their ideas with you, and even if you find those ideas at this time not executable, don’t dismiss them entirely. Don’t underestimate the flow of ideas from outside of your organization.
Telling employees that “we need more great ideas” or “Let’s think outside the box” almost never works…yet it’s almost always what is done. There are a number of studies that show that when you ask people to think outside the box, you reduce the quality of your solutions. By asking more abstract questions, you increase the noise, lower the value, and reduce the relevancy of solutions. The issue isn’t that you need to expand the box. Quite often you are simply looking in the wrong box!
Instead of following the unproductive cliches, open up a dialogue with everyone about how you can get better at finding, testing, and implementing the ideas that people are already having. Or – like we’re doing in the INnOVATIOn program, engage even people from outside of your ranks – and be specific about what are the ideas you’re after. If you’re too vague, you can end up with a lot of noise – and you spend a lot of time on reducing it…
Then…How to avoid unnecessary noise?
You have to address this too because once you invite people – ALL PEOPLE – to participate in the innovative ideas, chances are that you’ll get many ideas – some of which will be irrelevant to what you want to do. For the most effective results, focus on the question, not the solution/idea. Frame the challenges correctly, because this is always a critical element to any innovation.
What are the most common mistakes when talking about innovation?
You need to stop calling everything breakthrough or disruptive, especially in internal company discussions. It is more than OK to have a balanced pipeline of big and small ideas, and we need to get comfortable with that. If you see innovation only as big and disruptive (executed today, and preferably on small or no budget, and still have an ability to shake the market), then this is what people will be working on. To be able to accommodate that perception, it becomes almost impossible to follow that ideal, and is very probable you end up with – nothing (remember Nokia and Blackberry?). In the end, you can hardly know what will your customers perceive as the added value, and sometimes very small changes in the functionality, can lead to very big changes in the customer experience – and vice versa – sometimes you spend a lot of time and financial resources on accommodating something that might prove useless at the end. So, remember – language matters, and once we start calling good but smaller ideas breakthrough, we lower the bar of expectations.
Don’t be afraid to fail… and learn
When many companies and individuals fail to proceed with any innovative ideas, is their fear of…failing… They are afraid that they would waste too many resources, afraid that it won’t work, afraid that they will become a laughable stock. Yet, do you know that Edison failed 10.000 times throughout his career as an inventor? Yet, when they questioned him about his failure, he famously responded:
“I have not failed 10,000 times—I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.” (Edison)
Adapt Edison’s point of view, and don’t be afraid to innovate even when you might fail, because the truth of the fact is – we all fail from time to time, but is crucial to learn from those failures.
DEV PACK INnOVATIOn
And to end – as mentioned earlier, we in DEV PACK know how hard it is to find the proper support for your ideas, and therefore we launched our new initiative supporting new innovative ideas – INnOVATIOn. If you carry an idea you want to bring to the world, but you’re lacking support, methodology for launch, financial resources, or even coaching – get in touch with us. We evaluate your idea and suggest the next steps forward.