Innovation in business is often misunderstood. Putting business innovation into action requires leaders to go beyond developing an innovation policy or hiring an innovation team. Great innovation comes from engraining particular ways of thinking into the DNA and essence of an organisation.
Innovation must become a function of who your business is, rather than something you simply do.
Here are five tangible strategies you and your team can embrace in order to bring innovation into the heartbeat of your organisation.
Obsess about the future
It’s not enough to think only about what your consumer wants and needs now. What underpins innovation in any organisation is how obsessed you are with the future. Anticipate future market needs. Figure out the wants, fears and frustrations of your consumer in ten years. Then, use these as the foundation for building your strategy today.
Do the thinking and research required
Innovation is not making wild assumptions or “out there” predictions about what’s going to happen and then throwing all your resources at that. Great business innovation is grounded in thorough research and a deep understanding of your target industry. This will empower you to make effective, informed decisions. Others may view your decisions as risky but armed with research, they are the logical next move for you and your team.
My game is education. So I spend my weekends researching about Finland, which is feted to have the best education system in the world. Through research, I can dissect the elements that make Finland’s education system a success and envision its possible application in Australia.
I consistently encourage my team to research areas of World’s Best Practice that are relevant to their roles. So, collectively as a business, we can become the World’s Next Practice.
Don’t let what is confine what could be
When researching World’s Best Practice, don’t fall into the trap of validating your ideas. Use this to inform your understanding of how the industry evolves, and where the current yardstick sits. Without this knowledge, you won’t realise that company’s next “innovative idea” is actually something someone else has been doing for years.
Research is important but don’t let yourself be contained by what the “best” are doing. Simply use it to get a glimpse into the future. Reimagine what is possible.
Ultimately, the innovator’s dilemma is that when you are truly innovating, there will be little evidence to support your thinking. If you could point to tried and tested models to validate your conclusions, what you are envisioning is not innovative. It is simply an improvement of “what already is.”
True innovation requires you to be comfortable with taking risks. Your team can arm itself with research data but remember – you will still be entering unchartered territory. To build a team that feels comfortable in pursuing new ideas, learn to tolerate failure.
Throughout the journey of creating something new, you will make bad judgments and your team will make mistakes. See this hard-fought experience as opportunities to learn and grow. If you build innovation into your organisation’s DNA, create the support system, and cultivate adaptability and flexibility mindsets so your team can recover quickly when failures occur.
To create something truly original, a deep sense of courage and vision is required. Those who strive to create new things are quickly confronted by this stark reality: we live in a world that finds comfort in doing what is tried and tested.
Without support from data and reassurance from evidence, you may find yourself being ridiculed, criticised or even completely ignored by those who are not sold on your idea that challenges the norm. The battle against conventional wisdom thus becomes the innovator’s greatest encounter.