The word innovation can conjure up images of disruptive developments such as online streaming services or companies such as Uber. Fortunately, innovation doesn’t have to happen on a grand scale to make an impact in your business.
Driving innovation in any business begins with creating and encouraging an innovative and forward-thinking culture to allow your employees to bring new and interesting ideas to the table, and put them into effect. Your employees need to feel free to contribute, to feel their contribution is acknowledged, appreciated and taken into consideration.
You need to break down barriers between management and employees and ensure that there is regular two-way communication. Creating a team of innovation champions can help. Instead of putting innovation on the backburner until an opportunity presents itself (which it might not), task the right people in your business with driving innovation in a proactive manner. If your innovation champions have a particularly heavy workload, perhaps re-allocate some of their roles to allow them time to devote to driving innovation.
When things go well, it is good to celebrate success. However, your innovation champions shouldn’t be afraid to make mistakes. Managers need to help employees to feel comfortable and ready to share. Good ideas should be recognised but equally, ones that don’t get off the ground should be applauded as something to learn from for the future.
Driving innovation involves focusing on what you do and what products or services you sell to your customers. Customer feedback can be used to drive innovation. Your customers are generally happy to tell you what it is they want from your firm. Perhaps they want flexibility or they really value quick turnaround times. Spend time gathering feedback from your customers and share this with your innovation champions.
From your perspective you don’t ever want to give your customers a reason to go elsewhere. Make this the central focus of your innovation strategy and task your innovation champions with finding new and better ways to keep your customers coming back again and again. Perhaps the solution to the problem lies in doing simple things a little bit better or perhaps you can utilise technology to make your product / service delivery more efficient. Focus on your customers, listen to their feedback and let that feedback drive your innovation strategy and the activity of your innovation champions.