Written by a talented e̶m̶p̶l̶o̶y̶e̶e̶ genius at FluidOne, this piece puts together compelling thoughts and analysis around business innovation...
Business innovation is perhaps the single most important driver of competitive success. At a time of growing digitisation and changing market trends, organisations are being forced to rethink their product and service innovation strategies in order to adapt to the changing landscape of the global economy.
But what is meant by innovation? During the 1990s, innovation simply meant adopting technology aimed at controlling output and cost. Today, innovation means the implementation of creative ideas, processes and new technologies through which value is created.
Innovation can serve as a catalyst for growth and can enable the achievement of key business objectives with sights set on accomplishing core business initiatives and the wider strategic vision of the organisation. Innovation is more than simply a synonym for R&D and goes far beyond the confines of research labs to encompass improvements and change at all levels of an organisation.
Unfortunately, there is neither a single factor nor a one size fits all solution to enabling innovation in business. And it is certainly not as easy as flipping a switch. So then how do organisations push the boundaries of product and service innovation?
Of the multitude of contributing factors, the context dependency of business innovation is fundamental as it has been shown to be the single biggest predictor. In recent decades, research has repeatedly highlighted the importance and necessity of creating and nurturing an environment for driving innovation.
Innovation thrives in an unfettered, ambiguous and unstructured environment, mirroring the organic messiness of a creative metropolis. Many of the most innovative companies over the past few decades have not had formal innovation funnels or spent the most on, or had the largest R&D departments.
When we look at products and services that have transformed our lives and revolutionised the way in which we interact with technology, from Facebook to Twitter, eBay to Ali Baba, they are almost invariably start-ups whose success had little to do with conventional measures such as, number of patents or start-up capital.
Rather, these companies were founded by individuals who encouraged a unique social dynamic that led to innovation – collaboration, discovery, serendipity and play.
Organisations that understand this recognize the importance of continued investment in its people by creating an open environment for entrepreneurship, and opportunities to enterprise. Creating an environment that encourages innovative behaviour is also a cultural characteristic and reflects the strategic intentions towards innovation and the preferred mode of working.
The big challenge for top management is to inspire and challenge the workforce to shed their inhibitions and step outside the confines of what is considered ‘normal’ to become more creative. It is a mindset that begins from the very top and permeates all levels of an organisation, and it will almost certainly include the intangibles of culture, such as beliefs, expectations and a sense of purpose.
The extent to which organisations will embrace innovation depends on the environmental conditions that dictate whether organisations are to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing global market.
The road to innovation is not without its obstacles and challenges, but organisations who dare to be different and who go beyond mere cost saving, high output initiatives, will reap the rewards of their efforts. But if operating outside of the box is too disruptive for organisations, they may have to consider making the box bigger...