When it comes to business innovation, speed is everything. And that’s not an overstatement. The fact is that you need to come up with ideas - and action them - before they become irrelevant. In a rapidly evolving marketplace, that can happen sooner than you may think. To ensure speedy innovation, and make sure you don’t get left behind, you need to create an innovation process that addresses two absolutely critical points:
Most businesses know that they need to create an innovation process that’s efficient. However, they largely overlook the second point. What usually happens is that organisations move ahead with their innovation plans, hit an obstacle, and then spend time trying to resolve it, which can slow everything down and risks missing out on opportunities. However, by building obstacle resolution into the innovation process from the very beginning, you can ensure plans are already in place to action as needed, no matter the types of innovation you’re focused on.
Reports suggest that nearly half of all executives think their innovation times are too long, with this being cited as the biggest factor impacting return on investment. So understanding the most urgent factors slowing down your innovation process is vital.
Here are 5 of the biggest offenders, and advice on the best ways to tackle them to keep your innovation strategy on track:
Your organisation has a certain hierarchy. Even startups that have a more informal way of working will still have some form of company structure made up of (1) idea generators and (2) decision makers. To an extent, a structure like this is necessary, but it can create a sticking point in the innovation process, with potentially great ideas on hold until they’ve been examined and verified by members of the leadership team.
Solution: Don’t rely on ‘top power’ but instead create a culture that promotes ‘local power’; give your innovators autonomy to research and make the right decisions.
Your people have become accustomed to doing things in a specific way. They work like *this*. It’s how they’ve always done it. So when a problem comes along that needs people to work like *that* in order to find a solution, your innovation process is going to come to a screeching halt. Without an ability to step out of the comfort zone, you will probably find it difficult to even create a true innovation process in the first place.
Solution: The only viable solution here is to be able to see things from a new angle. It can be beneficial to bring in younger generations who aren’t restricted by tradition to help you navigate the 3 lenses of innovation.
It might sound obvious, but you’d be amazed at how often the need to create an innovation budget is overlooked. So often, businesses will pour everything into creating an innovation process, and then discover that, actually, they have no cash, liquidity, or resources to execute it. They can’t action their plans, even if they’re ready and willing, and even if they’ve worked to spark buy-in motivation from employees. What a waste!
Solution: Analyse budgets, determine the potential for return on investment, and ensure that necessary funds are allocated to innovation to give you room to move forward.
In this instance, ‘poor’ may not mean what you think it means. We often think of a ‘poor’ culture as being one that fails to meet the needs of employees. However, you could have a very supportive culture and still struggle with a slow innovation process if that culture doesn’t promote speed and diversity in thinking. When innovation isn’t a part of the everyday, it’s something that very easily gets pushed to the background.
Solution: Build innovation into everything you do, work to spread an innovative mindset, and implement culture changes through training, and through leading by example.
The innovation process is only as good as the people in charge of it. Even the most efficient process can be slow and laggy if it’s being actioned by those that don’t have the necessary skill to carry out plans effectively, or who aren’t motivated enough to do it. If you’re passive about your resources, you’ll find it difficult to break through and come up with powerful ideas, so focusing on this area is essential for rapid innovation.
Solution: Educate, train, and develop! Empower your people to think innovatively and become confident change makers by giving them the tools they need to succeed.
Think about what your customer looks like today. A lot different to how they looked this time last year, right? Customer behaviours, industry trends, and technologies are changing all the time, so a massive part of adapting to remain relevant is quickly determining what opportunities are most important for the organisation. You need to be confident that your innovation process will allow you to make quick decisions about what to invest in, so tackling the sticking points in this process must be a main priority.