We have had many interesting conversations with numerous business leaders, with very differing opinions.  Our belief is that successful companies practice innovation as an ongoing, repeatable business practice.   You have to consciously and repeatably be evaluating your processes, products, and business model.  Others believe that innovation is a chance occurrence or the domain of lucky creative people.  We certainly do not believe that! 

Why do some firms grow and prosper while others deteriorate and decline?

For instance, look at Apple; what makes them special?  Design and software engineering skills can be found at thousands of technology companies around the world.  At Apple however, those same skills are deployed in such a way as to generate products that change how people use technology products, (Apple has transformed the music, telephone, and computer industries!)

One of the keys to success in business is to have a deliberate innovation process that is a continuous and repeatable business practice. 

Here are our thoughts on introducing innovation practices into your business:

Establish a culture of innovation mindset

Creating the mindset and the right environment for innovation to flourish begins at the top of the organisation.  Innovation and creativity have no geography and it is the leader’s job to get it right and delegate it widely at every level throughout the organisation (do not restrict to a small band of specialists).

We would further encourage the following:

  • Listen and stay open – ideas do not always come from experts and sometimes come from internal and external novices and backroom thinkers. 
  • Collaborate – collaborate with outside groups such as customer forums, universities, government agencies, and other think tanks as this will bring new perspectives and ideas to the innovation process.
  • Dedicate time to innovation.
  • Empower employees and allow them to show initiative.
  • Embrace failure –  innovative thinking does involve risk taking (prudent and calculated risk taking, but nevertheless risk taking). There will be failures, learn from them

Develop an innovation system

You will need to recognise early on that you need two management systems.  Let me explain why? 

One system to run the existing business

Your current system is dedi­cated to the management of current products, current customers, and current markets.  Your management and reporting systems are likely to be focused on negative deviations and underperformance. If this is the case, management will generally be presented with problems, and see their role as resolvers of problems.  If so, the chances are that the organisation, will never be very innovative.

Second system to run the future business

The second system should be dedicated to the development of concepts for future products, future customers, and future markets.  Management must be focused on opportunity creation, selection, and pursuit and must be supported by formal structures and systems.

Innovative thinking needs to breed proactive behaviour.  Management meetings, therefore, should have separate agendas that focus on opportunities as well as problems. 

Measure innovation

The most important thing is to keep the measures simple and focused on what is important to measure.  Set up targets and dashboards and incorporate into a balanced innovation scorecard.  The list below could be a good starting point for your innovation journey and metrics. 

  • Financial 
    • Percentage of sales from “new” products
    • Percentage of sales from “new” channels
    • Percentage of sales from “new” markets
    • Innovation magnitude (financial contribution divided by successful ideas)
    • Investment efficiency (ideas explored divided by total capital and operational investment)
  • Customer 
    • Number of new customers
    • Number of new markets
  • Internal 
    • New processes added
    • Process enhanced
    • New products/services
    • Product improvements
  • Learning 
    • Number of ‘innovation’ workshop sessions held
    • Number of ideas per month from all your employees
    • Number of ideas evaluated
    • Innovation success rate (successful ideas divided by total ideas explored)

Reward and compensate innovation

Simply put, if your people are not rewarded and compensated for their innovation efforts, these efforts will not occur.  Therefore, a visible system of rewards and compensation needs to be implemented.  You will need to ensure that the compen­sation system of the company encourages innovation that supports the strategy of your business.

Make innovation a reflex 

It is the processes that management puts into place in the organisation that will get people to behave in a certain manner.  As these processes are adopted and integrated and become a repeatable business practice, they will in time become a reflex.

Engage your customers by envisioning and building better products and experiences, developing go-to-market approaches and improving business models— Innovate to generate new growth, meaningful differentiation and real economic value.

Business Navigation Services specialise in facilitating and supporting you with workshops, keynotes and project management. Book a FREE 30 minute consultation call with us to help you identify the next steps for your business.