Innovation is important at all stages of business development, and vital for wider economic growth. Today’s digital world offers growing opportunities for experimenting with new development frameworks and innovations resulting from the explosion in new information and communication technologies, the development of global value chains, the growth of service-based economies and a greater openness to both foreign trade and direct investment.
Forward strategy demands that people generate ideas and scenarios for the future of a team, department or whole organisation, presenting significant opportunities for applying innovative thinking in terms of direction, growth strategies, new ventures or collaboration strategies and competitive positioning.
In my business, national and global partnerships or collaborations have been the No.1 most effective way for me to pivot my business based on a market shift and meeting customer needs.
Business model innovation
A business model is the method by which any business makes money. This might involve a one-off fee for a service or product, a regular subscription, up-front payment, a monthly retainer or direct sales.
So innovation considerations commonly cover:
- new forms of selling, pricing and packaging products or services,
- new management/control methods and models,
- new approaches to information, and protecting or managing ideas and knowledge,
- potential new strategic partnerships and alliances.
Explore potential for multiple revenue streams. In a previous article I wrote about the 15 ways I bring revenue into my business.
Read the full article here
Product or service innovation
This first thing people tend to think about when business innovation is mentioned is the possibility of new product or service design.
The driver for product or service innovation can be a ‘push’ (providing a new design and educating the customer to use it) or a ‘pull’ (in which an underlying customer need or ‘pain’ is discovered, which drives innovation).
So innovation areas to consider (whether push or pull) could include new or adapted products or services, product or service extensions or areas where a business can offer added value.
As a business innovates successfully, copycats swiftly follow, so you can never stand still. In 2012 I built an e-learning platform. This was was too early to be successful, so six years later I’ve had to develop a new process to online learning that has revolutionised the effectiveness of the students’ learning and accountability.
This tends to focus on the operational side of a business – how efficient or effective its processes are at all levels – especially compared with the competition or best-practice.
So areas to consider are new Process Management Systems, processes and operational methods and techniques or possible quality improvements and ‘agile’ approaches.
Being able to pivot quickly according to the market/opportunity and having complete transparency with my virtual team at each stage of process innovation, has enabled me to create a ‘lifestyle’ instead of work/life balance.
The transformation of marketing to a centre for innovation rather than a cost centre involves abandoning traditional marketing approaches in favour asking business owners, entrepreneurs and CMOs to think without limits.
Create a vision for customer obsession that will guide how marketing, and the business as a whole, evolves. When a whole company embraces creativity and speed alongside an obsession with customer needs it can create a brand with purpose.
Marketing innovation (incorporating sales) focusses on new ways to promote products and services, including new/different channels to market, clearer brand differentiation and positioning, and innovative approaches to customer service.
The sales supply chain, from producer to end-user, is becoming increasingly web-centric and streamlined; linking all transactions, payments, logistics, shipping, and production in one super-efficient transparent network.
So rethinking and transforming your sales process to maximise innovation will be vital. Customers’ ability to access product knowledge on-demand drives online businesses, so capturing complete data on their purchasing, preferences and profiles, from all customer touch points provides the total sales view essential to every organisation.
So understanding your customers should guide any sales process. Getting the right information to the right people, at the right time, so they can make the right buying decision, is critical.
Go from taking to giving. One of the best pieces of advice a mentor gave me, nearly 10 years ago, was “The secret to living is giving.” This changed my approach to sales forever, and now my sales and marketing are irrevocably entwined to give the customer what they need, when they need it most.
Highly innovative new technologies can be both disruptive and transformative, but technology adoption can also be incremental, such as simply automating a manual process. So introducing business technology innovations, either incremental or step-change, may embrace increasing online connectivity across the business, strategic technology acquisition and use or using time-saving technologies to improve internal communication
For me, this has been the single biggest mindset shift. I first wrote my book Think #Digital First in 2013, and published it in 2014. Three years later, I realised that many of the technologies I had included had either evolved and innovated, or disappeared. So for the expanded 2nd edition in 2017, I removed and replaced over 40% and added another 20% to cover changing consumer needs.
Supply Chain innovation
Many businesses can now sell their goods and services globally, using innovative thinking and technologies to manage their supply chain needs from supplier all the way to the end consumer. To make the most of this potential, businesses need to consider new approaches to value chain management, ‘make’ or ‘buy’ decisions and the potential to outsource or off-shore some business functions.
A supply change can also apply to a service driven business. For 11 years I worked out of China, with corporate brands like Disney and Tesco. Today’s innovation comes from allowing partnerships to deliver innovation through design, service distribution and a customer-centric approach.
Any form of innovation is going to involve people somehow. But innovative approaches can also be applied specifically to the ways that people work – even how they think and act – at any level of the business, and impacting any customer touch-point.
Adopting organisational innovation in a business could involve creating a whole new culture, or looking for new ways for people to communicate or work together.
Changing how teams work can create new channels for creative ideas – sometimes freeing people to think outside their immediate job role and contribute in unexpected ways.
For me, this is obvious. When I ran a technology company in Shoreditch in London, I had a team of developers, marketers, business development as well as shareholders, investors, a chairman…the list goes on. Today my team is virtual, and I pay only for what I need, when I need it.
For a business to build a culture of innovation, it’s essential that top level management are seen to be both innovating themselves, and encouraging ideas across the business. But these ‘people as promoters’ are only part of the story.
Innovation owner and enabler
Board members and high level managers must have ownership of innovation projects, providing both control and support to a Project Manager. These ‘innovation owners’ are in a position to understand how the company works as well as what the customer needs.
Innovation team as driver
The right team can lead an innovation project to high performance. But one individual can lead to innovation project failure.
So the success of any innovation project depends on the quality of the support and cooperation of all the relevant business areas. And since innovation projects are likely to cross almost every area, many people are involved.
So the right project team, including a balance of people who represent the needs of the business and the customer is vital to innovation success.
External roles in innovation management
External stakeholders and experts with right technical expertise also have an important role in influencing the success of innovation activities.
I’ve got 10 years’ experience of running online businesses. In that time, the most important person who has become more savvy is the customer. Being able to talk to online customers and understand how they are connecting with my brand have been the two biggest changes in my business.
For you, this could mean hiring a copywriter and data analysis expert. By doing this you could see a 10-fold increase in your brand awareness.
Take a look at how I am helping companies meet their innovation management requirements here.