How to stay on top of the innovation game
To get ahead of your competitors, you need to come up with new approaches, new ideas and new solutions. You cannot do this unless you let go of old paradigms and patterns of thinking.
What to do:
Change your attitude to “why not” instead of “no, that can’t be done” and see where it gets you. You can encourage your creativity and imagination by trying new things in your office – maybe changing the way you design meetings, maybe shaking up the schedule. You might find it helpful to think about the future of the company, and what products and services you would like to deliver. One of the most helpful exercises for enhancing creativity is trying something new in your company’s life. Whatever it is, when you go out of your comfort zone, new ideas will flow.
For an internal workshop, we made the attendees sit in a circle instead of around tables. Tables are like barriers between human beings, so we removed them.
1. Think differently
Changing the way things work may be a long-term goal and there will surely be bumps on the road. Don’t get discouraged. Innovation doesn’t happen overnight, so fi nd a way to keep your vision and sense of direction alive.
What to do:
It is helpful to imagine your company in the future. What will the business look like, what goals have you achieved and what does your company do? Visualise the answers and write them down. Or even better, sketch them and hang up them somewhere visible. It is also an absolute necessity to talk about your plans with your employees. Tell them about your vision, but listen to their ideas too. Only when your employees share the vision and work towards it can get you close to achieving it.
One of our clients, a large telecommunications provider in Switzerland, wanted to become more agile in its way of working and wanted to implement a sustainable innovation process. We created the vision of having an innovation ‘sprint’ before every program increment cycle of SAFe, so requirements are clear before the PI planning. Also, we implemented a continuous innovation cycle, which enabled them to adapt to changing customer or market needs.
2. Have a vision
Good innovation has to bring something to the market. How can you be successful if you don’t ask what the market really needs? Customers are your best source of information.
What to do:
Create model customers and put yourself in their shoes. Who are they, and what are their qualities, values and problems? Why do customers buy your product or service, and what do they do with it? Where does the need to buy it come from? What do they do with it after purchase? You can also write down every step a customer has to go through from purchase to disposal.
A customer in the industrial sector offering a service for renting tools on a construction site wanted to implement a new software feature without truly knowing whether the end customer would really use it. By prototyping a new feature that opens up a new digital business model directly at the end user site, we could detect a lot of pitfalls. For example, we could check if the user experience was simple enough even when it was in the field with a lot of dirt, and whether there was a fast checkout and locating function for tools.
3. Focus on the customer
Any idea is best evolved and tested together with customers. Continually verify whether you are heading in the right direction and with the help of your clients.
What to do:
Prototyping is always a good way to start. Whether it’s a presentation or a drawing, Lego bricks or a Styrofoam model, a prototype brings your idea to life. Remember, it’s the first version, which is still open to discussion, so include only the most important attributes. Then test it with your customers. Do they like it? Do they show enthusiasm? Do they even understand the product the way you do? Do they think they might want it or need it? Would they pay for it? Talk about it, get feedback and be prepared to adjust and test again.
We did business model ideation – generating a new business model – for a logistics supplier in the field of delivery of food. The supplier wanted to launch a shopping app where farmers could put in their products by themselves and end users could easily buy them and get them shipped by our client. We got insights from customers that showed that they not only wanted to pay by credit card but also they would like to buy on account. So we designed a new payment process by respecting customer insight and locating function for tools. We could also make sure that the app is responsive on different devices, because customers don’t seem to favour a particular one.
4. Adjust and test quickly
Innovation is work for the whole organisation, not a single-person job. Realise that your employees might have better ideas than you and may know better what the product or service needs.
What to do:
Whether via innovation days, hackathons, pitching roadshows or other methods, encourage your employees to come up with new ideas and suggestions for improvement. Recognise them publicly for it by publishing it or rewarding the author. Good ideas should be implemented. But remember that creating an open and transparent culture in your company also means allowing mistakes and failures.
By implementing a specific innovation process, we ensure a continual idea backlog that enables future new services or products to be launched. It also secures the continual development of a company and has an impact on the way employees work, and their personal and organisational prosperity. This kind of new process implementation will always be accompanied by cultural measures such as training in design thinking, strengthening a culture of failure and rewording it as lessons learned, or creating dedicated sessions to such learnings (peer coaching, meet-ups, etc.).
5. Enable your employees