I am often asked what innovation is. Is it a new unique technology, a cool new product, does innovation mean coming up with the next iPhone or medical device, can I innovate if my business is not a startup, tech company, or sexy new venture. The truth is innovation is not that complicated; in management innovation is the result of a process that brings various novel ideas in a way that has an impact in an organization, this can be a new idea or a more effective process. It can also be the application of new solutions to existing company needs; innovation is simply something that marks the company in a positive way, and as a result transfers into better solutions, services or efficiencies to your clients. That is why I always say every company can and must innovate.
Innovation is a catalyst for business growth, which is what makes it so important. Ford changed the way we produce by reorganizing the manufacturing chain and the internet changed the way we look at businesses geographies forever, but even small innovations like color coding have had a deep impact on our daily lives. We can’t grow without innovating, in biology evolution is innovation, and innovating is the way organizations and economies evolve.*1* Joseph Schumpeter argued that industries must incessantly revolutionize the economic structure from within, and that is exactly what business leaders and entrepreneurs do every time they come up with ways to improve customer satisfaction, reduce costs and times or better their relations with suppliers.*2*
The next question I’m asked is, what do I have to do to innovate. The answer is not as straight forward as for other business functions, but it is much more fun. To promote innovation leaders must be irreverent, question the way you do everything and the way your industry operates. Be inquisitive look at your competitors, other industries and even nature. Figure out what they do and how do they do it, sometimes innovation comes from crosspollination between industries or functions, one thing is for sure innovation will not come from doing the same that we have been doing, no change has ever developed by not challenging the way things are done. And don’t forget to look into what you are doing correctly today it is easier to innovate in areas that we excel at than those where we have problems.
Innovation can easily be linked to positive changes in organizations since it usually brings with it efficiency, increased productivity, better quality and in general increase value to our clients that will translate into more market share and loyalty. But none of this is possible if we don’t create an innovation culture in the company and put in place the structures and resources to implement innovation and make it part of employees tasks, be sure you are not only creating but nurturing an innovation environment in your organization. Your top executives and you have to break away from traditional ways of thinking and doing things and learn to use change to the advantage of the organization.
All organizations can and must evolve, innovation happens by many reasons sometimes is a result of a shift of the companies environment and its need to adapt, other is because of a new technology coming into play, some innovation is a result of a failure on our normal system and a quick fix brings innovation, sometimes with us even noticing it. But if we keep our eyes opened to find unserved needs, have the best people and technology in place and are willing to put in the right resources we will be innovation drivers in our companies and industries.
Innovation doesn’t happen by chance, innovation is a result of a disciplined company that is always looking for opportunities and has created the right team and environment for it, but most importantly innovation happens because we as leaders make sure that our organizations culture is aligned with it and we allocate the right resources for it to be possible. Forget about innovating for the future start innovating for the present, as with strategy the key is to think of what we are doing today and how can we do it better, how can we add more value to our clients and be more efficient, as we do this we need not to guess what the future will be like but how we can start building the future we want, it is way more fun this way. *1* Be bold and let your imagination run wild because the only limits are the ones that we set upon ourselves and our organizations, there is nothing to wild or to crazy and we must not limit ourselves because the moment when we envision a crazy new world and set our minds in making it a reality that is exactly when innovation seems to magically appear. *2*
Written by Iliya Zogovic, President & CEO ONEtoONE USA.