01 Aug Stop Saying Innovation and Define What it Means to Your Business
If you’ve been in business long enough, you may have heard of that gold-plated, seemingly mind-blowing Latin coined term called ‘innovation’.
Statistics by the board of innovation estimated that there are about 70,000 books and counting on innovation and over 2 billion Google results available at your disposal when you search for the word ‘Innovation’.
Yet, there has been no proper demystification of this word. Though business owners and executives claim that innovation is the bedrock of any successful company, businesses still face storms of mediocrity year in and year out.
I stand up and tell people to stop using the word innovation. Don’t use the word if you’re not going to define it. - Brant Cooper, CEO and Best selling author
The word Innovation means different things to different companies. Though team leaders and stakeholders end every meeting by telling staff to stay innovative, no tangible result has been produced because there has never been a specific definition of why and how the teams should be innovative.
So, maybe it is time for you to stop telling yourself and your staff to be innovative and start defining what innovation means to your company.
Why companies that preach ‘Innovation’ never innovate
Starting with Alexis C. Madrigal, vast and well-renowned American Journalist thoughts on Innovation…
But there is another form of ignorance that seems universal: the inability to understand the concept and role of innovation. The way this is exhibited is in the misuse of the term and the inability to discern the difference between novelty, creation, invention, and innovation. - Alexis C. Madrigal
Innovation can become a maze of unending openings that can get one lost from its true definition. Innovation can mean different things, and it isn’t tailored to one specific way of methodology or result.
The word innovation may mean improving the customer care sector of a business, creating a healthy, working business culture that leads to disruptive innovation, improving the marketing sector, or coming up with totally new, radical ideas that can bring in revenue.
At the bedrock of various innovative goals lies the true essence of innovation– to create iteration/evolution or new ideas that lead to a positive change geared towards the company’s longevity, revenue increment, and healthy collaboration.
Let’s take a comparison look at two companies to back up this discussion. One company decided to embrace the changing times and innovate, while the other company was too busy trying to keep its position as the niche’s leader until they were left behind.
Blockbuster, a 9000-stores and 50million-customers company, was a leading video rental store that got everyone leaving their homes, knowing fully well that they would have access to their favorite movies.
Although it thrived during its time, Blockbuster failed to recognize the innovation that was springing up from Netflix and rather chose to focus on the brick-and-mortar approach upon which it was once founded. As a result, Blockbuster CEO John Antioco, turned down a life-changing offer from Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and regretted it for years.
In contrast, Lego was near bankruptcy in 2004 with US$800 million in debt. Sales were down, and the future, dark.
However, CEO Jorgen Vig Knudstorp and his team admitted that with the rate the company was going, bankruptcy was inevitable and turned the tide around by innovating and moving perspective away from physical toys alone.
Instead, they focused on digital transformation and eventually became a representation of innovation to bigger companies. A book was born from their drastic change: Brick by Brick: How Lego Rewrote the Rules of Innovation.
Defining what ‘Innovation’ means to you will move your company forward
As I mentioned earlier, innovation means different things to different companies. So you must answer ‘What does innovation mean to my company now?’.
➡️ Are you trying to improve your marketing strategies?
➡️ Do you want to develop novel products that solve users’ pain points and bring great returns to your company?
➡️ Are you thinking of creating an effective working culture that will lead to more productivity and disruptive innovation in the long run?
There are different types of innovation, and knowing the one your company needs opens up a clear path to follow.
It’s about technology or having a good culture where young people want to come and work. Or, it could be a marketing factor, or it’s a new business model. It’s all over the map. We have to define what it means, and then we have to define how we are going to apply it in the organization to reach our strategic priorities. - Brant Cooper, CEO and Best selling author
Innovation is not only about invention, as others have believed. Innovation can mean different things.
Here are the four types of innovation and the problems they solve:
💡 Sustaining Innovation: is improving a product to sustain its position in the market. The main aim of this method is to iterate existing products already thriving in the market to meet more demands and maintain their position in the market.
💡 Disruptive Innovation: Coming up with new, novel products or business models that disrupt the market: A great example of disruptive innovation was the iPod when it was released in 2001. It was a new product that seemed impossible. Yet, it completely disrupted the market and created an entire ecosystem around the music player.
💡 Incremental innovation: This type of innovation is gradual but consistent. It is about gradually iterating a product, such as creating a newer version to make it more efficient.
💡 Radical Innovation: A one-time radical breakthrough that carves out a new market. Radical innovation is rare, but it aims to address global issues and create new ways of solving the problem. This type of innovation also leads to a new business model.
Have a clearly-defined ‘innovation’ term for your team. That way, your business will know what to focus on. When that is done, a clear definition of the processes your business will need to achieve business innovation must be defined.
Learn to do it right
If you look at history, innovation doesn’t come just from giving people incentives; it comes from creating environments where their ideas can connect. - Steven Johnson, Scientist
Innovation, unlike serendipity, doesn’t happen out of sheer luck. Innovation requires deliberate actions, a conducive environment, and laid-out methodologies to develop long-lasting ideas.
We are not saying innovation should happen in a rigid, boring environment; we are saying innovation requires structures and a conducive environment. Preparing your team for innovation and creating a conducive environment with the necessary tools is a great approach to innovation.
There are different methodologies for innovation, such as Six Sigma, Design Thinking, Design Sprints, Agile, and so much more.
Finding the right innovation methodology and adapting it to your business values creates a clear path for the team to collaborate, unleash their creativity, and make positive changes.
While many innovation methods are being developed and created daily, Design Thinking and Design Sprints have proven times without numbers to be effective innovation tools if done right.
No wonder innovative companies like Slack, Google, Twitter, Dropbox, Airbnb, and the likes have fully integrated Design Sprints.
Design Thinking is a user-centric approach to innovation. A solutions-based methodology marries strategy and creativity to provide the structure and methods for framing and solving complex problems.
For example, Design Thinking has proven to be effective in coming up with innovative ideas, services, and products for your business. No wonder it moved from being a designers’ thing to something every business thrives on incorporating into their organization.
However, because of how wild Design Thinking is, it can be overwhelming when the right structures are not in place. A business may get lost in the Design Thinking process or get confused if there are no defined processes to follow.
One of the ways to avoid getting lost in the maze of Design Thinking is to set up a Design Sprint focusing on one problem at a time. A Design Sprint is usually a four-day process where you and your team can focus on a specific business problem, develop new ideas, test and validate these ideas.
It may seem overwhelming due to the short period, but Design Sprints have proven times without numbers to be highly effective. The comprehensiveness and intentionality of Design Sprints have led to many ground-breaking solutions that have proven to be beneficial to the company in the long run.
If you want to learn more about Design Sprints, Design Thinking, or any other Innovation method, there are loads of articles on our blog: All your innovation, creativity, product, and business strategy tips in one place.
At a time when thousands of new companies are springing up with the hope of succeeding and having a chance in the business world, staying innovative is a decisive step a business can take.
Innovation to me is when a change or update is made to something that already exists, but it dramatically improves its efficiency, productivity, or outcome. Whether it’s an improvement to a system, product, service, curriculum, etc., an innovation is not just a change but a “game changer”. - Brett Brownell, Digital Strategist
As mentioned earlier, innovation is a big word that must be clearly defined for every business.
Though it may mean different things to different companies, the end goal is to develop positive, iterated, or novel products, services, or structures to increase revenue and put the business in the limelight.