‘Adapt for the future or risk falling behind.’ This is the mantra of modern business people navigating disruptive market entrants, a volatile economic landscape and fierce competition.
Finding opportunities to innovate is key to driving business success, but knowing where to look can be a challenge. Thankfully, there are a few simple strategies for tackling the problem with fresh eyes. And they really pay.
Create a culture of innovation
Innovative thinking comes from being empowered to take risks. This means innovation must be in-built into the company culture from the top-down.
Ensure your leadership has a clear vision for the future. That being said, all of your staff should be encouraged to think innovatively about your business, regardless of their seniority.
Facilitate innovative thinking with regular training sessions, seminars and collaboration – fostering an attitude of continuous learning and development will drive innovation.
With all eyes looking to find creative solutions, the next big idea is just around the corner.
Explain the value of change
But before any of these measures can come to fruition, all levels of the business must be open to change. Think of innovation as an opportunity, not a risk.
Very few businesses succeed by continuously producing the same product the same way. A successful business needs to be able to keep up with changes in the market and the everyday realities of their customers.
You’ll need to look at your business with a keen, critical eye to find where to focus your attention. What aspects are working well and what can be improved? Consider asking for the personal opinions of your staff, or even conducting a customer advisory board to gather quality, impartial data.
Look outside your business
Sometimes the best help is a fresh set of eyes. Crowdsourcing independent advisors has become commonplace because they offer a more objective view of your business and have extensive innovation experience in a range of industries. By tapping into this, you build a network of experts and give your business a major advantage over the competition.
Advisory boards can be an invaluable asset to all types of businesses. For more comprehensive information on the benefits of advisory boards, download our free Guide here.
You may also want to share physical space with another business in the same or similar industry. Co-working arrangements are modern alternatives to traditional office spaces and drive collaboration and knowledge-sharing.
Business partnerships can also be present innovation opportunities. This may come in the form of developing a product using both business’ technologies and brand identities. It’s a great way of leveraging each other’s credibility and meeting the needs of both customers. A classic example of this is a mobile phone company partnering with a major telecom provider to offer a streamlined service.
The Australian Government is also offering major support for innovation. Find out if you’re eligible to receive a grant and use their Innovation Connections service which provides your business with an innovation advisor free of charge. This assistance significantly alleviates risk and leaves no excuse for inaction.
Once you’ve put a new innovation strategy into place, measuring its success becomes vital. Many businesses shy away from this step, but this can be costly.
It’s important to find a balance between different types of innovations (product, service, pricing, distribution, etc.) and different levels of risk. You wouldn’t put all your personal savings on red at a roulette table, so why do it with your business? Be bold, but be smart.
Record as much information as possible. It will help you track the success of your strategy. This includes the amount of money and time spent on innovation (inputs), the number of ideas (throughputs), and number of innovations reaching the market (outputs). Also, note the ratio of inputs to outputs as it will give you an idea of the efficiency of your strategy.
Ensure you also measure the extent to which management and staff exhibit pro-innovation behaviours. This can be done by distributing anonymous surveys and will help you gauge their attitudes to your strategy. Encourage honest feedback and offer to meet with them privately if they wish.
By innovating your business wherever possible, you give your customers a reason to come to you and not to your competitors.