Innovation is the systematic development of new opportunities. And is not only the 3Ms, HPs and IBMs of this world that need to innovate. It is becoming essential for business success. Product life cycles are getting shorter, the speed of change is ever increasing.
Markets are getting more competitive. The only way to stay ahead is to innovate. Not innovating is business suicide. Innovation is right up your alley. It does not need to be “big” stuff but innovation should be part of the continuous improvement of your business processes, your products and services along the continuum from creativity to commercialisation. All little things help.
Innovation suits SME’s. They are more agile and flexible, quicker and very close to the market place. But how systematic is your SME in its innovation endeavours?
- How different are your products and services compared to earlier versions?
- How many new products and services have you introduced in the last three years? How big a part are they of your revenue?
- How many ideas do you have in portfolio?
- What is your attitude to change?
- How much management time do you spend on innovation?
If any of the above questions indicate a static approach your business will be in trouble soon.
There is a lot you can do yourself.
Get the creative juices flowing:
- Organise a brainstorming session with your staff (pick the best and the weirdest idea).
- Do some attribute listing (how small can you cut up your product, services and business process and replace, change, outsource)
- For a month write down all the questions, using the 6 prompts (who, what, where, when, how, why)
- Do mind mapping for a month on a big sheet of paper hanging from your office wall.
- Take a day off to think.
All of this 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. If you stick to it, you will be amazed with the results.
Examine your bandwidth
What magazines do you read, who do you talk to. Are you aware of the latest technology trends? What are your competitors doing (in Ireland and abroad)?
Do some trend watching:
- Look for changes in food, new products, trendy restaurants
- Look at the introduction of new products (failures and successes)
- Changes in family structure
- Changes in work environment
- Environment; are people changing their behaviour
- Economy; optimism or pessimism
- Changes in wording
- Read science fiction
- Visit the research labs in universities
It is not rocket science! Take a course, participate in a programme, and develop the necessary skills to keep on doing this as an ongoing process, understood and well managed by you (or appoint an innovation manager, but make somebody responsible and ensure the right skill set).
Visit the universities
All universities have centres that are keen to develop links with business. Ask for an overview of what is going on in the research centres. It will blow your mind.
Innovation in a strategic context
However, whatever you do on innovation, please put it into a strategic context and ensure fit with the direction you have chosen. Don’t make it a distraction from what you want to achieve.