The ability to innovate is a key factor to commercial success, says YTKO programme director Helen Trudgeon
A strong capability to innovate is essential if you plan to develop new products or services, or if you want to create a successful collaboration.
But innovation is not something that should be restricted to business development – it’s also an attitude and an environment to be nurtured throughout your business to create better sales, real efficiency, higher quality, excellent customer relations and a ‘can-do’ ethos.
So, how do you ensure that your company’s fundamental ability to innovate is second to none? There are five main areas here that need to be addressed and which ideally your business already has, or which you are keen to develop: organisation, strategy, processes, people and resources.
The enterprise should have an inspiring purpose which includes a desire to enrich the world in some way. Not only should that purpose inspire customers, but it should also be an inspiration to the entire workforce.
The enterprise should also have a culture which is conducive to innovation. The concept of culture embraces such diverse elements as values, unconscious assumptions, tacit and explicit rules, decision making protocols, work practices, atmosphere and leadership style.
There must also be enterprise-wide awareness and understanding of what innovation is, and its role in the future success of the enterprise. The physical workplace can also be designed to stimulate and support innovation.
If your business has these in place, then you already have the building blocks to develop innovatively, as it is essential to bring your entire workforce with you to achieve success.
Your business should develop an explicit strategy for innovation that is aligned with your overall strategy.
This strategy should embrace innovation in the areas of products, services and processes, as well as through the use of technology and even into your business model.
Your business should develop a process and an infrastructure which actively encourages the generation and implementation of ideas, throughout the organisation. Processes can be put in place for discovering opportunities by keeping abreast of customers’ needs, identifying emerging trends, inverting conventions and exploiting assets, otherwise known as developing market awareness.
You should also create an infrastructure encouraging the creation of new processes and work practices, to avoid falling back into former, less innovative practices.
It is also essential that you put processes in place for sharing ideas and innovation-specific knowledge across internal boundaries. Again, creating this capability should foster innovative thinking across your business.
To be truly inspired, your business should aim to hire, develop and retain innovative people, so that you create a workforce with the capability to generate and implement ideas, supported by the infrastructure, culture and processes.
To ensure that your business is able to support the innovative process, it is essential to have the necessary resources in place, and working effectively – eg finance, facilities, mentoring etc.
These components should foster a strong innovation capability within your organisation, which in turn should lead to a strong innovative capability in terms of business development and capacity to engage with other businesses.