The word ‘innovation’ has become overused in today’s business strategies, conjuring up images of ping pong tables and bean bags in the office.
Despite this cynical view, innovation is an integral part of any organisation’s business strategy. Without change and fresh ideas, there’s a chance your organisation can become stale and irrelevant. But with a shift in focus and creative use of resources, you can find space for innovation to thrive.
We looked at some strategies for achieving an optimal innovation environment.
Ask the right questions
Try standing back and taking a long hard look at your organisation. Where does change need to happen? Understanding what type of innovation is required will give you clarity of vision about where to start.
There’s a tendency to focus on innovating products, but new ideas can come from anywhere within the four Ps
- Profit models
By tackling innovation as a whole-of-business opportunity, you could find an innovative idea in an unexpected area.
adopted this approach recently, and the company has gone from strength to strength. The release of the free versions of Office for Android and iOS happened as a direct result of this strategy.
Shift your focus
Shift your focus away from business as usual (BAU) and back to growth opportunities. It can be challenging to focus on change, especially if your current systems are working like clockwork. But in the long-term, using all your resources on BAU could prove to be detrimental to business. A shift in priorities towards growth will reap the rewards further down the track. Tactics could include:
- Assessing how much time you’re giving to BAU vs business growth opportunities and reallocating resources
- Including innovation in your business plan; for example, Westpac has an innovation team of 20 people dedicated to identifying growth opportunities and fostering collaborations with start-ups
- Connecting with other business ecosystems to create collaborative models of working – Spotify approaches businesses in this way
Engage your people
Your people are a valuable resource for fresh ideas; they are experts in their area and work on the frontline of your business. It could also have an empowering effect on your workforce, giving them direct investment in the success of your company. Some ideas to try are:
- Implementing structures to give employees the space and tools needed to explore innovation
- Identifying the ‘innovation champions’ – finding the business leaders in the company who are willing to give employees time out from BAU to try new ideas
- Giving employees the tools to know what to do with their ideas. How can they find a receptive influential person and learn methods of presenting ideas?
New solutions require new ways of defining success. Using old measures may mean the dismissal of valid ideas without being given an adequate chance.
The same rethinking applies to employees. The Harvard Business Review
advises incentivising innovative work, even if it doesn’t meet a 100 per cent success rate. Instead, leaders should aim for 70 per cent – the expectation of 100 per cent success mean employees are unlikely to take risks, killing the chance of innovation.
By embedding innovation within the structure of your company and creating flexible strategies to engage employees, you can ensure that your business will not be left behind.