What do you think of when you hear the word ‘Innovation’? I recently asked one business owner who came up with the following words
- Next step
Plato (Greek Philosopher Born in 427 BC) coined the phrase ‘Necessity… the mother of invention’. You could easily substitute the word ‘innovation’ for ‘invention’ and see that actually, innovation isn’t new at all – it’s been happening forever! It’s in our DNA to constantly seek out new and better ways to do things. Just like fashion trends – ideas get recycled and put forward as something new.
In recent times innovation has arguably moved at a faster pace than any other time in history. The younger generation and some very bright sparks are driving innovation in all aspects of life e.g. entertainment, product/service purchasing, health care, learning, business and the list is massive!
If you’re reading this message you’re most likely a business owner or involved with a business. What we’re interested in is how you can include innovation into your business, so that it’s a constant occurrence.
Why is innovation important for business?
Innovation is a key enabler for:
- Achieving business growth and improving bottom line results.
- Making productivity and efficiency gains to improve profits.
- Competing successfully and responding quickly to changes in the external environment.
- Engaging and inspiring your employees and customers.
How you can make innovation part of your business’ DNA:
- Recognise that innovation is about ways to move your business to the next level.
- Reducing costs is a must – so that you can compete with your new ‘low cost’ competitors from around the world. You need to be the “Cost Leader” in your industry.
- Improve efficiency – how to do more with less is the catch-cry nowadays – as a western civilization with high labour costs, we must find ways to compete in the global marketplace, if we are to stay relevant. One way to do that is by leveraging technology.
Have a culture of innovation in your business by
- Leading your team and sharing your own innovative attitude and ideas.
- Encourage innovative ideas from your team at regular discussions/meetings. Ask what they think.
- Incentivise your team to contribute new ideas.
- Prioritise actions/projects for maximum ‘Return on Investment’
- Communicating with your team that they all should be “Innovation Leaders” and that innovation should occur at all levels in the business, including the production floor. Innovation should be seen as being part of your employee’s day-to-day activities and not just the responsibility of management.
Ask your customers how you can improve their experience
- Via social media.
- Run a competition to incentivise them to contribute good ideas.
- Listen closely to complaints and compliments for ideas.
- Do surveys of customers (very easy nowadays online).
- Simply ask when speaking with them.
- Ask front-line team members for feedback.
Ask your team how you can make their lives easier and less repetitive
- If you can remove boring and repetitive tasks it provides a more conducive environment for innovation.
- Innovation doesn’t mean people losing their jobs because things get automated – it just means people can be used more effectively – no robot or computer system can replace the human brain (yet!).
Seek out ways to be innovative in your industry
- Attend industry events/shows to see what new products/services are available.
- Join your industry association.
- Read industry journals.
- Join industry related sites and social media online.
- Look closely at competitors to see what they’re doing.
- Research online – just Google it!
- Join networking groups to learn what others are doing.
Prioritise your innovative actions
- Decide which aspects of your business need the most innovation – if you’re falling behind competitors and your sales are declining, look at your product/service first and how you can modernize it.
- Work out your ‘Return on Investment’ in innovation. i.e. if implementing a new mobile workforce management system will save your service staff several hours a week each, and it will just cost you a few thousand to implement, you will probably recoup your investment pretty quickly.
- As well as working on your product/service innovation work on
- Marketing – use new methods e.g. digital marketing, social media, blogging, automated.
- Sales – employ a cloud based CRM to track your pipeline of opportunities and report on results.
- Operations – utilize new methods to be more efficient at delivering your product/service e.g. online ordering, better delivery scheduling, outsource non-core activities, systems in the cloud for easier access and safety of data.
- Finance – get online! Cloud accounting saves many hours or boring and repetitive data entry due to automatic bank feeds. It also puts the business owner in much easier contact with daily accounting issues and can provide better and more detailed management reporting.
- Human Resources – cloud based systems make it much easier to be compliant and on the ball with HR management.
- Customer Service – technology and social media makes it much easier to get feedback from customers with online surveys/comments.
Seek out government and outside assistance with your strategy and implementation of innovation.
- There are lots of government resources available nowadays to help business to be more innovative with.
- Access to Grants.
- Tax benefits.
- Changes to law relating to employee share schemes.
- Changes to law relating to crowdfunding.
- Insolvency law reforms.
- See www.innovation.gov.au
Sometimes it helps to bounce your ideas off an outside person, as well as your team. Find a good Business Advisor/Mentor, who has lots of commercial experience and is connected to other businesses in the marketplace. They tend to move in wider circles and have a good grasp of what is happening in the business environment. They are in a good position to share this knowledge in a ‘two way’ conversation and act as a ‘sounding board’ for you.