Every business today is trying to be innovative in an effort to stay ahead of the competition. But are you doing it the right way? Are you adding the right catalysts to accelerate innovation to achieve your business goals fast?
This article discusses 5 effective ways to channel your innovation efforts in the right direction with the right set of enablers.
Applying these techniques to your business will need some tweaking depending on your domain, nature of business, organizational structure, culture etc. It is for you to customize them to suit your environment.
That said, let us understand in detail how to take innovation to the next level.
1. Be a thought leader
This is for entrepreneurs and business leaders who seek to enhance their knowledge and expertise to grow their business. This takes time, and requires you to be an expert in an industry or area of business.
But how does becoming a thought leader help you accelerate innovation?
Thought leadership keeps you aware and updated on the latest trends and technologies in your area of expertise. Or may be you are leading the innovation wave in the industry. This makes it easy for you to come up with innovation ideas and use cases in that area.
Also, you would be connected with similar thought leaders in other sectors through social media or forums. You can interact with them to know the pulse and areas of innovation in their respective industries.
2. Watch your competition
If your business has thought about an innovative idea, it is very likely that your competitors also have. So make sure you keep an eye on your competition to check if they have already executed or conceptualized your idea.
Also, when it comes to innovation, ideas without execution do not give you results. It helps your business only when those ideas become a reality. So, even if your competitors have come up with a disruptive idea, you can stay ahead of the cycle by adopting it and bringing it to completion faster than them.
Studying your competition also helps you to identify areas that require disruption, and channel your work into such areas.
3. Make innovation a culture and a policy
Innovation is not just about bringing in new technologies and imposing process changes. It needs active contribution from people for an accelerated outcome. And there are two ways to encourage it – making innovation a policy, and imbibing an innovation culture.
Including innovation as a company policy has proven to be an effective strategy. 3M, which has been awarded the most innovative company several times, is a classic example. They do it by having about 10,000 R&D people in 73 labs around the world.
Building a culture of innovation is not easy either. For this, business needs to come up initiatives to encourage employees to contribute new ideas. Following are a few ways in which you can do this:
- Conduct innovation events and hackathons: These can be used to discuss and brainstorm innovative ideas
- A portal where employees can upload their ideas: Ideas can be validated by getting approval from relevant stakeholders.
- Awards and recognition: Recognizing the best innovative ideas every year
Choose the right method of the two based on what suits your business environment.
4. Build an independent innovation division
One of the main challenges that every business faces in implementing innovation is that there is nobody to enforce or monitor it across the organization. It is quite hard to even get the business leaders to encourage their team members to contribute to innovation.
The solution to this problem is to have an independent innovation team that has the power and liberty to question anybody if they do not meet innovation guidelines and policies. Having such a team also has the following benefits:
- To have focused efforts on innovation
- Tracking and measuring innovation becomes easier
- The team can act as a centralized entity for innovation budget allocation
- Talent acquisition and development for innovation becomes easier and more productive
It is relatively easy for mid-sized and large organizations to build such an independent team, as they have sufficient resources. If you are a small or new business, I would recommend the C level leaders to take up innovation as one of their responsibilities. This way, you are not spending any additional resources on it. Also enforcing related decisions might also not be much of a challenge.
5. Choose the right people to work for you
As mentioned before, people are one of the most important factors to build a business focused on innovation. When you try to build an innovation culture, people should have the mindset to accept and accommodate the necessary changes made as a part of it. Hence it becomes essential to hire the right people to work for you.
So how do you ensure you bring in the right set of people?
The simplest way is to hire people from organizations which are known for innovation in your industry. Such candidates would understand the need and importance of innovation. You can also ask your current employees to refer people who have an innovative mindset.
Another way is to do a case study based assessment during the interview. The candidate’s solution approach to the case study can help judge his/her appetite for innovation.
That concludes my 5 best techniques to accelerate innovation in your business. Irrespective of what you sell, innovation is the way to go to stay relevant in the long run. Leverage these techniques to overcome the roadblocks you face on the way to building a successful business.
Have you already implemented any of these in your business? Let me know in the comments section.