As we all know, ‘innovation’ isn’t a description of a specific thing or a specific method. If you hear the term ‘innovation’, you could think of anything from the alphabet to research and development! It’s clear that business innovation comes in all different forms, and the many types of innovation can be achieved in different ways. So it’s important to understand the different options available, ensuring you’re achieving your innovation goals in the best possible way.
There are many, many examples of innovation processes. But in most cases, they can all be broken down into two simple categories: internal research and external research.
Let’s take a look at some examples of innovation processes, both internal and external:
Internal research options mean leveraging the innovation power of your people, or recruiting new hires to expand innovation capacity. This is usually the most obvious choice for businesses, especially for those wanting to keep innovation in-house.
The main benefit of internal innovation is that you’re innovating from a place rooted in company culture. Your people don’t just understand the business, the customer, and the goals for the future, but are also shaped by this understanding. On the other hand, this can sometimes limit how far your people are able to deviate from the norm, and so the biggest benefit of internal innovation is also the biggest downside of this option.
Some examples of innovation processes using internal resources include…
Advantage: You have an entire department dedicated to generating new ideas
Disadvantage: It can be costly to pay salaries for a new team of permanent employees
Advantage: You can be sure ideas are being sparked from real industry trends
Disadvantage: New ideas are generated whether they’re feasible or not
Advantage: Giving employees greater responsibility can help you retain top talent
Disadvantage: Delegating innovation completely can mean you forfeit control
Advantage: You’re giving yourself the capacity you need to keep innovation in-house
Disadvantage: As with an R&D department, hiring for innovation can be costly
External research options mean bringing in support from the outside to help drive your innovation efforts. Whatever resources you decide to utilise won’t become a permanent part of your team, but will provide on-demand support as required.
The obvious benefit of external innovation support is that you can see things from a new perspective, through a fresh pair of eyes – or through the three lenses of innovation. It addresses the main problem of internal research: that your employees are restricted in how far they’re comfortable stepping out of the business’ established processes and ideologies. The downside of research process outsourcing (or any kind of external outsourcing) is that there’s no standard. Quality can vary considerably by provider.
Some examples of innovation processes using external resources include…
Advantage: Experienced consultants have seen it all; they’ve ‘been there, done that’
Disadvantage: Very expensive, and likely to have their own pre-established ideas
Advantage: Ability to reach external data and use this to provide a bigger picture
Disadvantage: Like consultants, external researchers can be very expensive
Advantage: Ability to obtain the input you need, exactly when you need it
Disadvantage: Quality varies; it’s vital to choose a provider that validates resources
So what’s best? There’s no clear answer to that question. Some businesses will see results from calling solely on internal resources to deliver their innovation strategy, while others will find they can’t quite get out of the everyday mindset without bringing in some fresh perspectives. And, most of the time, the best solution is to embrace a combination of both… they’re not mutually exclusive!