Strategic advances are made when organisations become the first to find a profitable way to exploit new opportunities. These opportunities may be created by changes in customer tastes, technology, economics or other external factors.
Critically, strategic advances are not made through problem solving. Resolving problems is about dealing with the past, not the future. Problem solving may help you drive performance – or at least return it to previous levels – but it will not dramatically improve your strategic position.
Many businesses, and their leaders, are focused on problem solving ahead of innovation, however. Of course, you need a mix of both, but the key issue is where your real focus is.
Here are five ways you can raise the bar and create a more innovative business.
Become more future-focused.
Problem solving is based on what’s happened in the past. If you’re more focused on the future you are looking at how you can make Version #10 of your new product great, and not simply spending your time resolving all of the issues associated with Version #1. How much of your time are you focused on future trends and opportunities?
Become more outward looking and customer focused.
This is more than undertaking research. It means spending real time with customers, experiencing your products and services from where they stand, and identifying their frustrations and hidden needs. How much time do you spend each week with your customers?
Embrace prudent risk taking.
There is no growth without risk. You do not always have to bet the farm, but by accepting and working with a certain level of risk you can focus on maximising the upside from your new ideas. What balance of risk vs. return are you prepared to take with new ventures?
Acknowledge the inevitability of failure.
Failure is the Siamese twin of innovation. The secret is not to avoid failure, but to fail as fast and cheaply as possible. Using prototypes, getting your ideas out there and learning as you go are critical approaches to driving strategic advantages from innovation. What is your attitude to the failure of early trials and prototypes?
Push accountability through the organisation.
Innovation cannot happen on the top corridor. It takes place in the outer reaches of your organisation. For innovation to become systemic, you need people to feel both empowered and accountable for their actions to bring new ideas to your customers. How active are your front-line teams in suggesting and developing new ideas to grow your business?
Which of these five approaches could help your business to become more innovative?
© Stuart Cross 2017. All rights reserved.