Summer 2017 has been three months centered on innovation. Our webinar in June focused on using innovation as a tactic in balancing between competing goals of growth (e.g. customer satisfaction) and cost containment (e.g. efficiency).
Plus, so much of our focus with executive clients this year has been around how to create purposeful innovation — rather than falling into the trap of innovating for the “cool” factor.
It’s what I like to call transforming “random acts of innovation” into strategic competence aligned with business objectives.
All c-level leaders want to innovate when it contributes to the bottom line and improves market position. But, how can you “keep the lights on” while you build a culture of innovation and test out new products, new processes, or new business models?
It comes down to bridging the gap between innovation strategy and business results.
Innovation Needs a Business “Sponsor” and a Framework
For time and resources to be dedicated to the pursuit of innovation, it must have a reason for existing – a business “sponsor” – and something to guide it. If an innovation has a direct connection to a high-value problem or high-potential opportunity, it can gain momentum. If it doesn’t, then it clearly doesn’t align to overarching business objectives and the timing is wrong.
Plus, if innovation stays as a “random act,” it will never take root within the culture. Using a framework can guide your innovation. Our recent webinar reviewed the various types of innovation and offered prompts to create your own organized approach.
Identify Key Sources of Innovation
Before you can identify key sources of innovation, you need to define what “innovation” means to you and your organization or team. Innovation might mean a whole new business entity, a new business model, or creating new efficiencies or technology.
However you define it, your internal and external stakeholders will need a common language.
Key sources could include the Voice of Customer and built-in methods for gaining insights – like surveys, in-app prompts, etc. These should be a prime source. Also, tap into your rebels, your pie-in-sky types and your grounded go-getters to tackle problems and opportunities from their unique perspectives. By calling staff out with a specific role, you can draw on the way that they think and stretch the possibilities to find new ideas.
Protect Innovation Space
One of my favorite stories from Ori Brafman’s “The Chaos Imperative: How Chance and Disruption Increase Innovation, Effectiveness, and Success” was about how Nintendo’s CEO allowed Donkey Kong’s creator to have protected space to explore and solve product problems while the CEO ensured that the rest of the company was well managed. That’s key to balancing keeping the lights on and stretching towards new territory.
Continuously Quiet the Noise
Step away from the innovation process and people. Leaders need to take time with key advisors to sort through all the data and inputs and to see more clearly how innovation can apply to a problem or goal. Focus is your singular success factor when it comes to creating innovations that pay for themselves.
Avoid Innovation Fatigue
Lastly, avoid innovation fatigue. We hear client’s tout that they “should innovate” or “we need to be more innovative,” but what does that mean to our teams? Our recent webinar posited the following definition and it summarizes what I believe is the power of innovation — “Innovation consists of ideas that are translated into action to achieve a business-critical outcome.”
It’s not — dare I say — innovative, but it reminds us of why we’re stretching our teams, our creativity and the boundaries of what we think is possible.
Want to make better decisions when it comes to innovation? Watch our recent webinar: Balancing Tech Investments for Back-Office Efficiency with Customer Engagement and Innovation where you’ll receive a robust, but easy tool for choosing between competing priorities.