5 Steps To Real Innovation

One of the most abused words for the past few years is innovation. Ever since the likes of Apple or Netflix revolutionized their respective industries, you hear entrepreneurs telling themselves and others they also want to “innovate” and hopefully grow as large as these global brands. A good friend of mine recently borrowed Dan Ariely’s quote from Big Data to describe innovation:

Innovation is like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it…

Is it something that can be done to better manage innovation success? Yes, 100 percent. But the more important question is, how do you sustain it? You can when you learn how to manage it. There are hundreds of innovation books on Amazon, but the secret sauce that eludes most corporates are some simple factors.

1. Have a clearer definition of innovation

What is innovation for you and your business? Is it the creation of a new product or service, or perhaps it's an upgrade? Does it refer to a process that begins with the creation and acceptance of ideas? When you know what innovation is, it becomes much easier to set expectations, formulate objectives, set up parameters, and even nurture it. The collective buy-in for what innovation means is key to have everyone singing from the same hymn book.

2. Go beyond R&D

Before, innovation was the brainchild of an R&D department, which is staffed with academicians, experts, scientists, and other highly intellectual professionals whose main job is to produce a breakthrough that would hopefully catapult the business to the top and something the customers would want to pay for.

Technology, among others, however, has modified the arrangement. This time innovation goes beyond the R&D and branches out into many different places, including marketing and human resources. Here is why: innovation at some points needs to be sustained, and it is not something only one department can do. It is synergistic and needs to be cohesive. If a product undergoes innovation, the marketing strategies may also have to be changed. Innovation is about a cultural change, not just fancy experiments.

3. Create an atmosphere for innovation

We are not just dealing with labs and equipment here. We are also talking about the right setting that is conducive for innovation. Have you checked out the offices of Microsoft, Apple, and Google? They are fun, engaging, and open. Definitely these office settings have been incredibly helpful for the employees as they create a more relaxed workplace setting, but beyond that, they offer plenty of rooms for creativity and collaboration. Teams can meet up in the garden, boardrooms, or in cafes and discuss ideas. A flatter, less-bureaucratic structure allows for easy management intervention and brainstorming. With a culture that empowers individuals to explore, a continuous flow of ideas breeds amazing opportunities.

4. Monitor the progress

One of the key things you need to know about innovation is it always opens a business up to new opportunities. An innovated product may fail, but it can also allow you to see windows of brand-new chances in between. It even brings forth the concept of serendipity or the discovery of opportunities in a fortuitous manner. But you are less likely to see such good doors if you do not evaluate and measure innovation.

5. Go back to basics: customer experience

If you’re wondering why some brilliant innovations fail, it’s because they lack that one thing that makes them work: value. Innovation shall always be coupled with customer needs. As a business, your main objective is not to sell but to resolve the problems your target market has. Whether these are issues known to them or not is the challenge—and opportunity—in innovation.

Keeps these innovation tips in mind to guide you on your innovation journey.

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5 Steps To Real Innovation

Scott Bales is a global futurist, innovation & digital strategist, serial entrepreneur, keynote speaker at TEDx and a best-selling author.

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