What Makes a Business Innovative
Be it a groundbreaking campaign or a new solution to a common problem (the product or service), innovation gives any small business an edge in the market. It is this competitive advantage that sellers and buyers are always after. As a seller you’d want that edge that would make your client purchase a product and as a buyer, you’d want a reason to be convinced.
So companies have been working on the formula for years. While the products or services may differ, they share some characteristics that make them successful in the market. Similarly, start-up firms and entrepreneurs can build their winning strategies on these characteristics and plan a booming future. In fact, these are the very characteristics that set dreamers apart from the ones living the dreams for real. The strive, the strategies and the littlest changes in the company processes are all that we include in being innovative. But what actually makes a company innovative?
Just an initiative for innovation is not enough. The use of word in your slogan will also won’t be all to get you through the fast-paced and evolving business world. Innovation in the real world is nothing more than a tool they use to achieve their unique but realistic goals. We have gathered 5 major features of an innovative company.
1. Employees trained to think like innovators
The first and foremost asset of any business organization is that the employees can together bring dramatic profits by strategically working and developing themselves. Very few companies have invested in improving the innovation skills of its staff. Reason being, senior managers assuming that only a few are innately creative while the rest are only capable of suggesting what to put on the cafeteria menu.
Our research and experience suggest that innovation comes when employees are taught and trained in the right way which includes:
-- Challenging the conventional methodologies
Of course, all of the businesses have a defined process of work. The problem is when the invisible orthodoxies are built and followed again and again. A business won’t be innovative if it relies on the activities from the past (solely). Within an industry, executives may read the same trade magazines, attend conferences and communicate with the same consultants. Results? They start to think alike. Contrarily, innovators go out of the line in their quest. There may be a disavowal of some beliefs but that’s only for the good of the company. To be innovative, you have to take an innovative path!
-- Harnessing “underrated” or “unknown” trends.
Instead of speculating, innovators spend time being attentive to the little details that are changing in the market. This may be related to customers or business processes or simply the need of the hour. You won’t need a fortune teller to be innovative. Instead, a wide-angled lens to track trends that haven’t been noticed and spot the gaps the competitors might have missed. It is only then you are able to use these tools to upend traditional business models.
-- Addressing the “implicit” needs of customers.
Customers out there have their own conventional beliefs. Asking them what they want would ultimately bring you to the same place again. Innovators rather observe the behavior and the client base closely. They identify how the company might be creating needless frustrations or making things overly complex. Where the customers’ time might be going wasted and if the customers are being like kings or numbers.
Whirlpool Corporation had a significant development in recent years in terms of innovative performance. What is the back story? The company trained more than 15,000 employees the art of becoming business innovators.
2. Belief – The customer is always right!
As the saying goes, your customer is the king! This is the real key to innovative and successful businesses around the globe. These companies not only focus on providing satisfactory services but also listen to them carefully. Hence, they are able to spot what they want and what they need. To be innovative is all about having ideas and quite often, it is your customer base that’s the source of inspiration. At the end of the day, customer needs are most important. Any company with customer focus (and not sale) achieves the goal easily
Keeping the customer as your prime focus means that you involve the well-being of your customers into decision making and pointing out whether your idea is really that great. Don’t innovate for just the sake of it. What you can rather do is conduct some surveys and market research to find the problems they might be facing. Listen to what they have to add and figure out the gaps.
3. Ability to spot the trends
Spotting hot trends and being diverse are the two important characteristics of an innovative company. These companies are open to constant changes, they try out new ideas and offer new products and services. Each new offering might not be a success but they strive and keep adapting to the market. This is a way to learn the best tool to serve the best to the right customer. Here, customer focus takes over once again in understanding the marketplace. Most of all, these companies are confident enough to take the leap to diversify itself. This may involve risks too but this is the right idea to stay on the top.
4. Being open to new and creative ideas
Brainstorming is the key. And this does not involve higher management only. Each and every individual plays their part in bringing new ideas to the table. Companies follow the strategy so aggressively that they even have post-it notes and whiteboards to record the result of each brainstorming session. Even a single detail should not be missed. You never know when “it” might come from something you didn’t even pay attention to.
5. Innovation leaders that are not only capable but accountable!
An innovation leader must:
- Be adept at using the innovation tools
- Create opportunities every now and then for blue-sky thinking
- Avoid premature judgements of new ideas or options
- Be open to evaluating even the craziest options on the table
- Demonstrate an appetite for unconventional ideas
- Celebrate smart failures and motivate to learn
- Personally monitor the teams and recognize innovators
- Love creativity and hire teams to promote it
- Apply principles of rapid prototyping and experiments
If your innovation leader is in any way lacking to any of these capabilities, you might not reach the goal. Too often, innovation is seen as the department of specialized units like Research and Development or Corporate Business Development and not the responsibility of every manager at each level. When the managers are involved personally, that’s where the game changes.
Thorough screening, training and feedback make companies achieve the title of being innovative when the employees are able to take the matters in their own hands.
So, pick your battles and take the lead.
You have reached this part of the article, is a proof itself that you’re looking for ways to re-engineer processes and come up with ideas about what can make your business innovative. It is important to understand which ideas out of the dozen cool options you can afford and turn into profits. Can you do it all at once? Or would you take one step at a time?
Once you have got a pool of ideas, assign people to analyze the feasibility, price and plunders of each contribution. Remember, limiting yourself won’t lead to anywhere. You got to try several techniques several times to get a better chance of success. You would always need plan-B and preparation to deal with the consequences. The best way is to put some resources as on a low-hanging fruit that would pay off instantaneously and some towards the bigger picture.