So many times, we hear about the word innovation and how organisations should place it at the core of their processes. Innovation is a buzzword right now, but it only carries the meaning once it has been put into practice and can produce measurable results. So, what does an innovative organisation look like?
Before we look at the characteristics of an innovative organisation, let’s first establish the premise of innovation in a workplace.
Innovation is a culture that needs to be cultivated and nurtured. Employees should consider innovation as part of their tasks, and this goes without saying that there should be a work environment that allows employees to brainstorm and test their ideas.
Innovation can take different forms; it can range from coming up with new ideas for a product or ideas that will improve an existing product. Innovation can also come in form of customer-driven innovation, which can help you better serve customers. Innovation could also be in the process through which you arrive at the outcome. Process innovation combines the skills, technologies and structures that are used to produce products or provide services
At a certain point, your organisation might need to adopt one or more of the forms of innovation according to your business needs. We always like to emphasise that your innovative idea doesn’t have to be the next big thing; It is about developing ideas that help you create better products for customers, improve your business operations and help you stay relevant.
The core characteristics of an innovative organisation
In our article, “Are You a Trendsetter or a Trend Follower”? We explain how businesses can set business trends and strategically position themselves for growth. Innovation thrives in an organisation that is not afraid to take the lead. Customers are ready to buy into products that address their unique needs. Business agility helps you quickly identify these needs and provide relevant solutions. However, taking the lead in the market comes with careful analysis of the business environment. While some innovations are cutting edge, they might not be sustainable due to obstacles such as infrastructure, policies or lack of market orientation.
When you set out to explore some creative ideas in your business, it’s because you want to achieve certain business goals. How you go about achieving the goals, who is involved, and the resources you need, will inform your innovation strategy. An innovation strategy gives you a clear picture of your business problems and how each employee or department in your organisation will help to make them work. Most importantly, your innovation strategy should align with your business goals.
Building an Innovative Work Culture
For innovation to happen in a workplace, it has to be supported by your employees; they are the backbone of your success. They have different skills, knowledge and experience that you can tap into to create an innovative workplace. They are the means through which your business goals are met but it doesn’t just end there. Encourage employees to give recommendations and suggestions, they have the best solutions to transform your business.
Encourage continuous innovation among staff by acknowledging every idea and giving timely feedback. Develop a transparent process for assessing ideas and ensure that every employee understands them. If you reject an idea, take the employee through why the idea couldn’t work and give direction for a better idea. For ideas that you have considered, implement them as soon as possible.
How many times has your team held brainstorm sessions? How many of those ideas have you successfully implemented? It’s good to develop ideas and turn them into an innovation strategy, but the bottom line is implementation. Customers don’t know about the environment you have created for idea generation. Frankly, they don’t even care about the innovation process, even though it matters to you. What matters to them is seeing products that are providing sustainable solutions to their problems. Take it a step at a time. Start by tackling one idea until you exhaust them all.
Unfortunately, innovations do fail. The most cited reason for why innovations fail is poor execution. You can have a good innovation strategy but lose out on marketing the product. However, it is essential to have a positive outlook on failure. Take time to evaluate your strategy and identify the loopholes. Engage your customers or stakeholders to understand what you should focus on in your next project. Encourage your employees to embrace failure rather than fear it. That way, they will be better equipped to plan for future projects.
Our Innovation Lead, Sekayi Fundafunda sums up the characteristics of corporate innovation:
“When we think about the need for innovation to occur, it is important to keep in mind two things – especially in a time when the terms “innovation”, “agile”, and so on can be overused. The first is that, especially on the continent of Africa, there is a great opportunity to solve the challenges we still face (recent investments into African startups prove this case). Innovation is serious business, and practitioners (companies and heads of business units) would do well to keep this at the fore of our minds. What is good for business is creating a product that may not be the most intriguing, but solves a real need for customers.
The second would be to think like an artist, to be deeply compelled to solve the world’s problems. To have an obsession with understanding what the challenges are and with a sense of an almost ‘higher calling’, gather like-minded people within the organisation into teams dedicated to solving those challenges. This might be termed thinking a little bit like Outsiders (as artists, and creative-types, in general, tend to be). There certainly is no one-size-fits-all approach to creating products and services that people need and love, but the nuggets shared in this article serve as a reminder of the necessary starting point(s).”
We are open to conversations on how your business can innovate and develop innovative work culture. Talk to us today!