How to be innovative in business: Best practices and framework
Innovation is the key to a successful business in today’s marketplace. Naturally, many people today are wondering, “How to be innovative in business?”, “What are the best practices that drive innovation in an organization?” and more. Well, in this article, we will try to address some of these key questions concerning innovation.
But, first of all, let us understand as to what do we mean by being innovative. The genius Albert Einstein once said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”. This quote from Albert Einstein, I believe, is a very apt way to describe innovation – the ability to look at existing problems a little differently and coming up with out-of-the-box solutions that work.
Needless to say, today’s world is a very dynamic place where things change at a rapid pace. Newer technologies are devised every year, businesses are born and businesses perish almost overnight, newer ideas and paradigms are challenging the age-old beliefs and ways of living.
In such a market place, the only way a business can maintain its competitive edge is through consistent innovation.
Having established this, here are a few best practices for driving innovation in your business:
1. Never be afraid to make mistakes: Innovation is the ability to try something new. Every new thing is usually associated with some level of risk taking and the probability of hitting a failure. Many people and businesses are so afraid of failures that they seldom try something new, submit themselves to stagnation and put a ceiling to their growth. On the contrary, when we look at hugely successful companies such as Apple, Google and others, we realize that they are consistently trying something new, even at the cost of risking failures and embarrassment. So be bold, make a few mistakes (if required) and innovate to grow your business.
2. Align innovation with your business objectives: Always be very clear with the overall vision, purpose and mission of your business. Know exactly what problem areas your business is trying to address in the world and why. Doing so would give a sense of direction to your creative thinking and thereby align your innovative ideas with your overall business objective.
3. Have a reason and story for your business: Build your business around strong reasons and have a story to tell. Make sure that people in your organization understand what FedEx chairman Fred Smith calls “The story of the business”. The reason is, we as humans like to associate ourselves with missions and purposes that are bigger than ourselves. People want to see the bigger picture, how things connect, where we fit in the flow of things and how we make a difference to someone’s life. Having a strong reason and story for your business would hold the entire organization together as one integrated unit that works and delivers on common objectives.
4. Promote and reward collaborative innovation: While working alone on important inventions and discoveries may have been the order of the day in the past, studies have shown that the vast majority of important innovations actually spring from collaborative, team efforts. So a business must essentially have processes in place to promote collaborative innovations and reward the best performing teams appropriately.
5. Celebrate success and learn from setbacks: You and your business has worked hard to set and achieve goals. So every once in a while take time to celebrate your success, learn the pearls of wisdom from your setbacks and challenges and keep moving forward.
Finally, here is a small innovation framework for you to consider for driving innovation at your organization:
a. Envision the ultimate goals and problem areas your business wants to address.
b. Engage your employees, partners and customers in brainstorming sessions to capture newer ideas.
c. Evolve your random ideas into more realistic and actionable features and must-haves that need to be developed and delivered by your business.
d. Evaluate these features and must-haves further to come up with goals and milestones to be achieved along with their timelines.
e. Execute around your goals by taking consistent action and tracking the progress you make along the path.