If someone asked you to name an innovative company, what would be your first thought? Would it be Amazon, or maybe one of the big tech companies from Silicon Valley, or would you name your own organization? If it is not the latter, it might be time to rethink your innovation process.
It appears counter-intuitive to structure innovation, but having a clear process that employees can follow is what empowers them to develop an innovative mindset and thrive.
We discussed the biggest innovation challenges facing organisations with experts from various industries, from oil and gas to banking and finance, technology and telecoms. Here is what they had to say about these challenges and the steps to take to build your innovation process.
Identify the problem and focus on the end-customer
The impact of new technologies, big data, IoT and digital tools, often distract organizations from getting to the core of their customers' needs. It is important to spend time to fully understand the problem and develop a solution for your customers. Take time away from the technology you have and stop trying to solve new problems with existing tools -- this is the first step in developing a better innovation process. For example, design thinking is a framework that allows different teams to work together towards a common understanding of a problem.
Eddy Nego, an independent technical consultant based outside London:
"We tend to go for technology before we try to solve an issue. We say: 'I know I need to solve this problem, but I also already know which technology I'm going to use' and that's the wrong way. The way we discover the problem should dictate what technology [we use], not the technology dictate how we solve the problem."
Thomas Eggleton, Product Manager at Oodle Car Finance:
"It's very difficult to define problems. You should always try to go deeper and understand who you're trying to solve problems for. Problems can have knock-on effects throughout the whole chain."
"Think big, start small, scale fast" (Devina Pasta, CDO at Siemens)
Many looking to innovate are discouraged by the costs or the amount of time required for the innovation process.
Ian Small, Innovation Champion for Civil Infrastructure at AECOM:
"We're always being challenged to deliver projects as efficiently as possible, yet everyone is busy all the time. To innovate you need space, you need time, you need to be allowed to fail. And those are things that as a profit-making organization we struggle to make time for."
Rosanne George McLennon, Proposition Innovation Manager at Telefonica UK (O2):
"You don't have to spend money to be able to visualize and to prototype your idea. You can do it with basic tools and that in itself can get people on board with the concept you want to launch."
In praise of culture
To overcome these barriers and get the innovation process right, having the right culture is key. In a recent PWC survey, 65% said innovation behaviors and culture are the most important factor in successful innovation in their organization (PWC, Reinventing Innovation
). Yet few companies are taking the time to understand change management and get the culture right.
Matt Masters, Innovation Manager at Calor Gas, part of SHV Energy:
"Most businesses have a legacy and it's about overcoming that legacy. [Innovation] is about introducing a new or a different way of working, that's the really exciting part -- taking people on a journey. [...] It's not just about the innovation person, it's about the wider business."
Milan Lakhani, Head of Strategy and Business Development, Business Innovation Centre, Europe, Konica Minolta Inc. sums it up like this:
"All too often many organizations focus on technology development for innovation. They neglect the people aspect. The challenge is trying to create the focus and the culture of innovation to make it very human-centric, rather than technology-centric."
Whether you are at the beginning of your journey or reconsidering your strategy, having the right approach to innovation means being able to inspire your employees, your customers and your community.
About the Innovation Mini-MBA
Powered by Google, the Innovation Mini-MBA is a five-day fully immersive learning experience that provides you with the tools to implement lasting innovation. You will meet experts who will share their successes and you will get the opportunity to develop and pitch your ideas to industry heavyweights and innovation strategists.
Visit the Innovation Academy website to find out more and download your course brochure.
— Amy Turner, Head of Digital Content, KNect365 TMT