If you are that person who thinks to be innovative your business needs to create the next great thing in the form of a new product or a new service, you are missing the whole point. Every business can bring innovation into its corporate culture just by adopting a ‘do better’ or aka incremental approach to innovation. Small changes in processes, service delivery and products can add huge value to your business with minimal impact on the expense items in your P&L. In fact, when done well, incremental innovation can be extremely profitable.
The research conducted clearly tells us that several elements must be present if a business wants to successfully create and maintain any type of strategic innovation. Firstly, the leadership team must be completely committed to the search for innovation opportunities across the business and then allocate the resources needed to implement them. Innovation is like any other part of a business, for it to live and breathe it needs to become part of the cultural fabric of the organisation. It needs leadership, collaboration, team champions, reward systems, frameworks, processes and dedication, all combined with lots of work.
Here are 6 C’s for implementing incremental innovation into your business.
For innovation to have any type of consistent impact in your business it needs to be firmly embedded in your corporate culture. For example, is your team empowered to do things differently or at least suggest new ideas without fear of reprisal from their peers and managers? If they do find the courage to socialise their ideas are they then told that it is a good idea BUT ‘it’s already been done’ or ‘it’s not the way we do things here’ or ‘we don’t have the time or resources’. Statements like these are sure fire ways to stop an innovative staff member in their tracks and make them wonder why they bothered in the first place! What is your corporate culture truly communicating, both internally and externally, in terms of innovation? Do you have an empty message in your strategic plan telling people that the business is innovative without really knowing what that looks like or assigning any resources to it? For innovation to truly become part of your corporate culture you need to get serious about it by overtly putting time & money into creating it.
Innovation is just like any other part of your business – it requires a team of people to make it happen. The difference is that this team is solely dedicated to solving problems by doing what is already done in a better way. With the business’s corporate values always front of mind, the innovation team would ideally be comprised of your best creative & experienced thinkers plus a smattering of practical project minded people to ensure ideas get implemented in the most effective way with minimal negative impact and maximum benefit to the firm.
The main goal of the innovation team is to shake up the status quo. Train them to become strategic observers constantly looking for incongruities in the business. Identifying what is actually happening versus what was expected to happen and then empower them to solve those problems that everyone seems to know about, talk about, complain about but do nothing about.
Incremental innovations need to be planned, trialled, implemented or shelved, with all the valuable lessons learnt along the way being recorded. If you are not recording innovations and where they
are heading you may end up burning resources, time and money so developing an internal Innovation tracking system is very worthwhile. This can be as simple as a spreadsheet or as complex as using industry standard project management software, this will be dependent on what your budget and your team’s skills allow. If you are not tracking incremental innovation you may be solving the same problems in multiple departments across your business.
There is no point in the innovation team creating great innovations if no one else knows about them! Your intranet is an excellent way to communicate incremental innovations across your business and even if you don’t have an intranet, monthly meetings or old-fashioned newsletters can work just as well. Whichever way you end up doing it communication is essential element to successfully incorporating incremental innovation into your corporate culture.
Your innovation team will be facing many challenges as they uncover problems that need good solutions eg. noses may get out of joint, ego’s may be bruised & incompetence may be uncovered. It is therefore important that a meaningful reward system is created for the whole innovation team for “going boldly where no one has dared to go before”. Remember, not all rewards need to be monetary – social events like regular team dinners, movie nights etc can also be great ways to acknowledge the combined efforts of the team and keep motivation high.
Finally, it is important to recognise that incremental innovation isn’t a quick fix – it is a long game that involves resources and dedication. Legendary Peter Drucker observed many years ago, that innovation
doesn’t require genius, but it does need hard work and commitment.
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