It's no surprise that many companies are desperate to be seen as innovative, customer-centric or digital disruptor's within their industry. What is surprising (and disappointing) is that some think they can 'check the box' by simply creating an innovation team and updating their corporate presentation to include phrases like "innovative culture", "digital disruption", and "emerging markets", with very little actually changing. As you very well know, updating your CRM system, running a course on agile or replacing your marketing automation platform, doesn't put you ahead of the curb you're chasing. Most of the time, it's as deep seeded as a culture change and company ethos shift that that needs to take place.
Most forms of innovation, are simply taking an existing problem that your customers or even staff have and solving it. Sometimes, that means solving problems they never knew they had to begin with.
"Customers can't tell you about a future they don't know yet, but they can tell you about unresolved problems that you can get to work on." - Jeff BezosBelow are 5 principles that can help you develop innovation in any organisation.
1. Actively seek out good problems
To be an innovator, you don't necessarily need a great idea, you just need a great problem to solve. Most of the best innovative companies in the world started out merely trying to solve a problem i.e. Wordpress, Google, Apple, etc.
Organisations often ask their customers "what can we do to help you more?" Customers can't tell you about a future they don't know yet, but they can tell you about unresolved problems that you can get to work on.
2. Choose problems that suit your organisation's capabilities, culture & strategyCopying the visible part of a successful company, won't get you very far. For example, the merging of design and technology was an obsession for Steve Jobs, so he built a company around that ethos. Google are well publicised as offering employees '20% time', though if an organisation simply offered their employees that they yield the same benefit? 🤔 Better yet, would anyone dropping out of Harvard expects the same success as Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates?
The most important drivers of success, are the things that we can't always see in people or organisations, things such as capabilities, culture and strategy! Might sound a little old school, but it's true.
3. Ask the right questions to map innovationQuestions like, how well are the problem defined or better yet, how well is the domain defined? Something as simple as that can help either flesh out the solution or assist in leveraging an existing one.
4. Leverage existing platforms and superior experiences
"Power no longer resides at the top of the value chain, but at the centre on networks. That's why collaboration is becoming the new source of competitive advantage." - Greg Satell (Author, Speaker, Innovation Advisor, Harvard Business Review)Becoming a trusted advisor or if possible, an indispensable partner is the best way to becoming dominant in your field or industry. The fact is, regardless of your organisation's size, market share or assets, it cannot go at it alone. No matter what!
One Australia company that has been trying to do this for years is Telstra. Having been previously part of the partnership network, I can confidently say that they do some aspects, really well and others not quite. Microsoft, another company that has really changed gears over the last 5 years and have very much become an important partner for organisations all over the world.
5. Build a collaborative culture and think differentlyIn the past, it was acceptable and encouraged to design a business for scale, control and efficiency. In case your team of upper management hadn't noticed, times have changed! Businesses now need to design themselves for agility, empathy and interconnectedness i.e. build a collaborative culture!!
"Love and trust your staff. Be kind, respectful and share the same DNA, and employees will go the extra mile for your customers. This inspires innovation." - Gary Vaynerchuk