Why Innovate or Die?

Innovation is no longer an option for companies, but vital to get ahead and last. Creative disruption is happening in every industry and the businesses which grow are those that accept inevitable changes and innovate.

Creative disruption transforms the way businesses function and the way consumers behave. Small companies that innovate well can outshine larger companies that adhere to past methods. Nokia, Barnes & Noble, Kodak, Motorola, Woolworths and Blockbuster are examples of large companies weakened or suffered extinction because they failed to innovate. More companies are now aware that their products and services can easily become outmoded by a new company’s latest offerings.

The way to survive in today’s modern era is to set aside assumptions and beliefs for innovation and change to begin. Although the path to innovation can come with high risks, it is also the lever companies can pull to secure a brighter future.

Statistics on the Importance of Innovation

PA Consulting Group’s report (2017) entitled “Innovation Matters” which analyses the importance of innovation saw 66% of participants stating that their companies will not survive without the help of innovation.

According to Tech Pro’s IT Innovation Report (2015), 71% of 353 participants said that innovation is highly valuable to their company. When asked if their companies are more innovative today as compared to five years ago, 67% of participants agreed. Tech Pro also looked at why innovation occurred in companies and 67% of participants responded that their companies innovated because they were exploring new possibilities. The reasons that followed were “new ways of doing things”, “better technology”, “visionary leaders” and “development of new products”.

Increasingly, companies are recognising the importance of innovation to stay at the top of their game.

What is Innovation?

Innovation is the way for companies to go beyond tradition and conformity. By innovating, a business can stand out and keep up with the demands of consumers and trends.

Companies can innovate in three ways:

  1. Business model innovation. This is a company-wide, holistic form of change. Business model innovation can affect everything from manufacturing to price adjustment. Small start-up businesses usually apply this type of innovation.
  2. Product innovation. Product innovation can bring about a new feature to an already released product, improve a specific feature or introduce a new product. Advanced technology is usually the driving force in product innovation.
  3. Process innovation. This is about changing how a service or product is made or brought to the customer. It may be a combination of technologies, methods, and capabilities to make, sell, bring and provide services or promote products. Customers may see additional value through improved processes. An example is when Dell allows its customers to customise their computers during the ordering process or when banks activate Artificial Intelligence chatbots to provide customer support.

How can Companies Create an Innovation Culture?

  1. Never underestimate subordinates. The biggest mistake company leaders can make is to ignore the creative ideas of employees. It is the creativity of such employees that can help the company become more successful in innovation.
  2. Provide resources. To implement innovative concepts, teams of employees should be given the appropriate resources, such as funding or even just the space and time to think about ideas.
  3. Promote a sense of freedom. Strict rules can suffocate employees’ Too much control limits the freedom of even the most experienced employees to think beyond conformity.
  4. Do not devote everything to Research & Development. Innovation should be spread throughout every department in the company. This is the only way to nurture and maintain an innovative culture.
  5. Give credit when due. Company leaders must recognise the innovative contributions of their employees. In doing so, they encourage and strengthen the culture of innovation in the company.
  6. Welcome failure. Telling employees that they should not fail is not an option. Fear of failure will suppress their capability to improve their projects or even come up with more creative concepts. Remember that fear never encourages nor nurtures creativity.
  7. Observe customers to discover problems. Focusing on the concerns of your customers allows a company to devise ways of addressing these concerns.
  8. Create solutions. A company can then use the insights obtained from its customers to create breakthrough solutions.
  9. Study the market. A product or service can be introduced to the target market at a lower price or with better features, enabling a company to learn from customers’ behaviour and make the changes necessary.

How to Implement Innovation?

  1. Question assumptions. Companies should never be satisfied with tradition. Just because something has always been done in a certain way, it does not mean that it should stay that way forever. Innovation usually follows when the company leadership says yes to improvements.
  2. Discover hidden areas and push to innovate them. Explore how and what employees can contribute to a company’s goal to innovate in the three ways —business model, product or and process innovation. Ideation techniques such as prototyping and brainstorming can be used in this endeavour.
  3. Develop. Once a company decides what to innovate, it can start to spend on the relevant resources and develop some concrete actions, such as:

    • choosing new suppliers
    • creating supply and manufacturing plans
    • establishing connections with channel partners
    • soliciting customer feedback and validation
  4. Commercialise. By the time products or services are brought to the market, a team should be firmly in place to assess any issues and gain information on product or service acceptance by the target market.

What are the Common Barriers to Innovation?

  1. Deficiency in following through. Follow-through is important in innovation. Employees who are devoted to innovation drive the success of innovative projects by ensuring that their projects push forward to implementation.
  2. Wrong culture. Even if the employees constantly come up with great ideas, they will not act if the company has conservative forces. It may be difficult to initiate innovation and instil a culture of innovation if the workplace insists on conventional practices.
  3. Insufficient resources. Pushing forward with innovation requires investment in the relevant resources, one of which is funding.
  4. Low rates of adoption. Adopting new ideas into everyday processes can be challenging for employees. Innovation may start in a great way, but it could be easily abandoned later.
  5. Insufficient time. It can be overwhelming for employees to add more tasks to their workload because of innovation. Lack of focus and time is a wall against innovation.
  6. Inability to adapt to sudden changes. Large corporations often face more difficulty in adapting to the quick changes required to innovate. Start-ups are typically nimbler in adapting. How can larger companies be as nimble as start-ups?

What are the Best Practices in Innovation?

Below are two important best practices that recognise an essential ingredient in any innovation, both focusing on people management:

  1. Approach with more than one mind. Diversity is always an advantage, especially when thinking about new ideas. Creativity does not need to sprout from only one mind. A collection of thinkers gives birth to far greater concepts. Details and analysis should also both be incorporated into the innovation process.
  2. Allow freedom for new ideas. Employees should have an environment that allows them to have ideas on their own. Even if they are from different departments and functions, employees should be encouraged to conjure unique ideas and not be afraid to share them.

Learn the Skills to Trigger Innovation in your Company

Facilitators Network Singapore in collaboration with Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital is conducting a “Creativity and Innovation” workshop for the health sector.

We invite to join us for an exciting learning journey to learn how you can effectively facilitate ideas for innovation in your company, through:

  1. Designing trigger questions.
  2. Practising at least 3 generative techniques.
  3. Practising at least 3 evaluation techniques.
  4. Crafting action plans.
  5. Selling your plan to stakeholders to gain support.

Our next Creativity and Innovation workshop is on 11 June 2019, 9am-5.30pm.
For more information, enquiries and registration, please email: admin@fns.sg