March 8, 2017

Top four tips to get your business innovating

When one looks at big businesses, they are able to achieve visible world-changing innovation thanks to their size, budget and what seems like unlimited resource. If you are an SME, innovation tends to be more iterative and low key – you may not recognise where you are being innovative or you may struggle to manage it. To be effective and ensure better long-term innovation without impacting short-term business stability, you should:

1. Have an internal framework for idea generation

As a Technology & Media team, we have seen first-hand with our clients how ideas generation can help businesses achieve success. How are ideas in your organisation created? Are employees given the time and support to present their ideas which could help improve or grow the business? And are they recognised for their contribution? Most companies do not have a specific framework or process for generating ideas, but this could mean they are missing out on a valuable source of innovation. Giving employees a forum in which they can pitch new ideas and improvements not only helps to increase employee engagement, but it also offers an alternative aspect from those who are at the sharp end of the business. And it doesn’t just have to be brand new ideas. As Les Ashton Smith, MD of Heber, suggests, some of the smartest innovators are just extremely good at adapting existing ideas for their industry: 


2. Recognise whether your innovation is proactive or reactive

Is innovation forced on you by having to meet the demands of customers? Or do you actively look to make changes to remain competitive? As James Todhunter notes: “…the organisation (that) gravitates toward the quick fix rather than considering the true nature of the problem….often experience(s) atrophy of their innovation.” Whereas, proactive innovators: “…take control of their destiny rather than waiting for their competitors to define their role for them.” If you are predominantly reactive, consider whether what you are doing for one client or customer might actually be beneficial for another in the longer term and therefore add value to your business overall. If you are incredibly proactive, make sure you are balancing the innovation process with the demands of meeting genuine client needs.

3. Be realistic in the evaluation of ideas

Not all innovation has to change the world. Small improvements in efficiencies can have just as great an impact as developing a new product or service. In order to get return on investment, consider how you evaluate ideas for change and how these are prioritised within the overall development plan of the business. What’s important to recognize is that successful innovation needs to encompass the full journey: (a) identifying problems or customer needs (b) coming up with ideas to solve or meet them and (c) delivering those solutions which result in a commercial outcome. Nick Thompson, ex-CEO of Gradwell Communications, recommends the RICE model to assess the viability of new ideas:

  • Does it increase your Revenue?
  • Does it Improve your processes?
  • Does it make Customers happier?
  • Does it improve Employee engagement?

If an idea scores highly, it gets the go-ahead.

As such, planning is key to achieving long-term gains when it comes to innovation. It is better to try and innovate than do nothing at all.

4. Protect your innovation!

Finally, don't let all the time and effort you've spent on innovation go to waste. Seek professional and specialist advice at the early stages, or even when innovation hasn't gone to plan, to help protect your most important assets- and ultimately your reputation.

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