Is your business in the fast lane?
In this article, the eight in the series – “Is your business in the fast lane?” – I concentrate on the importance of Innovation in helping your businesses reach the fast lane. Subsequent articles focus on other areas to ensure improvement, growth and sustainability of your business.
The future of your business depends on doing things differently to your competitors and in this respect innovation will help. However, becoming an innovative organisation and thinking in different ways means letting go of “old thoughts” and being prepared to implement change and then emphasising these changes to customers.
Innovation is about doing things differently being innovative in terms of product and or processes including how you get your products to market. So start looking at large step changes in how you do things. Look at an entire design of what you do and how you do it and look at it through the eyes of your customers. Your organisation needs to be creative.
However, getting innovation into a business often posses questions, states Robert Craven. He prescribes “the innovation cycle” as a way to introduce what he describes as institutional innovation. Lasting twelve weeks, an innovation cycle takes a project or idea that can be worked on by a project team alongside their other activities. Within the twelve week programme their will be the following stages:
- Scan – consider the key issues that you are dealing with. What are the options? E.g. new product development, a customer survey, improving operational performance, improving staff morale. What are you trying to achieve? How will you determine success? What are your objectives? Why should you be looking for a solution? What resources may you need?
- Focus – exactly what are you trying to achieve? What are the key issues that you are trying to deal with? What are the barriers to success? Look at alternatives. Consider trying out some prototypes or samples to give others a clear idea of what you are trying to do.
- Decide – determine what you are going to do. Plan what resources are needed and when. What budget will be required and who will be involved.
- Act – the implementation stage is where you test out your ideas. In real time you can see if your new improved technique or product actually works.
- Evaluate – the final key stage is to monitor and evaluate performance against what you are hoping to achieve. And then you can review and start all over again if you wish.
The foundations for innovation
- Make it fun
- Listen to your customers and what they want – focus on giving them something extraordinary rather the ordinary
- Don’t just talk about it – create prototypes so that others can see and touch what you are talking about and “strike while the iron is hot.”
- Be clear about whom you are targeting and make sure your innovation will deliver the promise and is easy to understand.
- Beware the enemy within – the pessimists will always try to defeat your enthusiasm and focus on you fear of failure.
Checklist – for innovation
- Never underestimate the power of “helicopter thinking” – look at the issue from above.
- Focus on quantum step changes rather than incremental change.
- Visualise the future – use your imagination to create how things could be.
- Communicate your vision, drive and enthusiasm to those you work with.
- Results are the consequence of method and systems plus your determination to succeed.
Checklist – individual characteristics of an effective communicator To be an effective innovator you need to be:
- Be clear about what you want to achieve.
- Define the project aims and benefits.
- Be a champion for the project in the eyes of all around you.
- Have the courage o take some (measured) risks.
- Have confidence to make mistakes and learn from them.
- Be good at motivating and mobilising others.
- Have the persistence to maintain momentum
Checklist – organisational characteristics for effective innovation are:
- A free flow of information up, down and across the organisation.
- A tradition of working in teams and rewarding and sharing credit.
- A belief in the value of innovation from the top.
- The desire and commitment to put effort and time required into innovation.
Innovation and success
A Harvard Business Review article found that the difference between successful and unsuccessful businesses lay in the way that each approached strategy. The difference was not about choosing one analytical tool over another; it was not about choosing one planning model over another. The difference was in the company’s fundamental, implicit assumptions about strategy.
The less successful companies took what can be described as a conventional approach. Their think was dominated by the notion of staying ahead of the competition – matching or beating their rivals.
By contrast, the high-growth companies paid little attention to their rivals. What they did was to seek to make their rivals irrelevant.
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