When you read “innovation” in a business context, to do skip on to the next thing?
“Innovation” sounds like a concept for big company marketing where they can afford to have consultants wafting around talking stuff no-one understands, that will never happen, that has nothing to do with survival in these tough times.
But innovation, the current marketing fad, is as old as business. Not the “Look, I just invented the iPhone” level of innovation. More the, “Hey if we can shorten waiting times by just 25%, looks like more customers will choose us,” or “A third of our complaints are about this, but perhaps we could change the way we do it.”
This is practical, small steps at a time innovation that in the real, tough world adds up to survival and moving ahead.
It’s concrete. It’s small steps. And we know it works: there is a direct path from the first cave dweller who tried to barter something, right to the door of your business, and it’s paved with innovation.
The big buzz, right now, is the wider recognition that you don’t have to sit around waiting for innovation to happen and hoping it will be something relevant and within your scope: innovation can be fostered and even directed.
It’s something that can be done at low cost, even no cost. It’s something you can do, no matter how desperate the times. The more desperate, the more you should do it.
Fortunately, you practicalities of an innovation program are already fairly well documented. Like most marketing fads, deliberate and channelled innovation has been around for a long time.
So you can do it, with low risk.
What can you get out of it? Well, that is unknown. Solutions, yes. Staff engagement and enthusiasm, yes. Customer engagement, yes. Sales and cost reductions, yes. An element of random business magic? Actually, yes.
All of these, or any one in particular? Maybe. Innovation is definitely related to creativity. You can stand an artist before an easel and tell them to paint a flower, but there’s an element of chance in whether you get Van Gogh’s Sunflowers or a Laura Ashley print pattern – or something you couldn’t sell in a garage sale.
Let’s get practical: your first innovation project