I’ve written in the past about how to foster and grow innovation within your organisation, however, the number one response I hear from firms I work with is how they would love to innovate, but due to the complexity of their business they don’t know where to start, what to prioritise or how to make the time to get started.
My response is always to not think negatively and look to stifle innovation before you’ve even begun, but to start by talking to key stakeholders, customer-facing staff and your actual clients to find out what their business critical issues are, and work together to find out where and how you can help.
Often through this exercise, you find that just by reallocating resources or efforts from one thing which isn’t working to another that will yield tangible results is a great first step. This not only energises your staff, but more importantly re-engages your clients when using your products and solutions.
Some may say that this is not innovation in its truest form, but the companies that are smart enough to be proactive and re-engage their clients through these straightforward exercises will be the ones that win their future contracts and support. Those that don’t and then wonder why their forecasts need to be constantly updated and their revenues sharply decline will quickly follow suit, but with a delayed response that may prove difficult to catch up. Make the time now and don’t fall further behind your competitors, who are actively allocating time and resources to this, as well as working hard on reducing their internal complexity and inertia. Those that do stifle innovation and put it off are those most susceptible to the disruptors that are now operating within most formalised industries.
These disruptors are not only looking to have a share of your industry, they are looking to consume your key revenue streams and will quickly devour those with a lazy or old-fashioned approach to innovation and change. Your clients are more technically savvy and service oriented than they have ever been, and will quickly migrate to these new industry charges even if they do have a few rough edges. A good reputation is key to any organisation, but living off the past and not moving forward is the biggest sin of all.
When you reverse engineer a strategy and work from the customer inward, the most startling revelation is often how more straightforward and agile you need to make your organisation versus the complex and multi-layered behemoth you have in place, which has grown exponentially over a long period of time. This is a key reason why larger companies with these huge, complex back-ends with structured process and formalised procedures find it harder to innovate.
Many are now forming innovation units within their organisations to work and partner with start-up incubators and accelerators, to engage with innovative and game-changing start-ups (a lot of the work I do). This includes larger corporates acquiring these nimbler and more agile start-ups, looking to integrate them and their services in to their front line services to their feature-hungry clients.
The main problem here is that the more creative staff that they bring across quickly tire of the formalities and procedure laden nature of their new host and look to exit quicker than planned.
This rigidity and reluctance to ‘free up’ these more creative individuals from your normal working practices not only contradicts the very reason you acquired them in the first place but continues to stifle innovation, as well as making it a very expensive and time-consuming process to boot.
Don’t let the complexity of your organisation and your faith in the past stop you from innovating and charging ahead.
This post has also been featured on the HP Business Value Exchange here