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How to Define Innovation and Your Organization’s Aptitude for It

In order to see sustained growth over a length of time, organizations must be innovative. The question is, what does that really mean, and further, how do you specifically define it for your company? To understand how innovation fits into your organization’s business model, you need to evaluate two key areas. Let’s begin with a simple definition to better understand business innovation.

Defining Innovation

For business purposes, innovation is the process of conceptualizing and implementing new ideas, processes or products; or re-imagining existing ideas, processes, or products to be used in unique and new ways. Innovation comes in many forms, and the approach can vary based on the organization’s industry, size, and resources.

Here, we’ll discuss:

  1. 1.  Evaluating how innovation is perceived from within and outside of your organization
  2. 2.  Evaluating existing innovation capabilities

 

How Those Within & Outside Your Organization Perceive Your Innovative Capacity

 

Understanding Innovation From Within Your Organization

Whether you’re just getting your feet wet in the world of innovation or are on the path to being seen as industry experts and trend setters, you have to first put all the pieces in place. Taking stock of your organization’s innovation style and means will allow you to take on appropriately ambitious projects and increase chances of success. By taking a realistic approach that embraces the capabilities and resources available, you can avoid wasting time on projects that lack the buy-in and/or resources to make an impact.

You can ascertain how your company approaches innovation by thinking through a few critical points.

  1. 1.  Discover how stakeholders in your company view and measure innovation.
    Begin by thinking about whether new ideas are welcomed and explored with an open-minded enthusiasm for the potential they offer, met with hesitant excitement, or only accepted within the confines of the current business model. It is not unusual to witness all of these perspectives; however, one view typically outweighs the other. The idea is to generalize which style fits best with how your organization operates.
  2. 2.  How is innovation measured?
    Next, consider how the success of innovation is measured. If the project merits it, is there a long-term view that allows time to realize the value of the initiative, or are initiatives abandoned fairly quickly if immediate results aren’t realized? Some may gauge success based on a comparison with other companies, or if milestones are met. Take note of differences in how various types of innovations are measured.
  3. 3.  Research how much innovation takes place within your organization and the ease of implementation.
    Is your company always innovating or infrequently? Research if projects are completed on time and as promised. Also, determine if your organization’s innovation efforts meet with competitors’, or if your company sets the bar in the marketplace.
  4. 4.  Now focus on innovation efforts that have been successful.
    The goal here is to identify what went right and what could be improved. Think about things like:

    1. a.  Was the project completed on time?
    2. b.  Did it result in a quality product?
    3. c.  Was it adopted well by the team?

Now that you have discovered and defined the dynamics of innovation within the company, shift your focus to external sources.

 

How Do Outside Entities View Your Organization’s Innovative Capacity?

  1. 1.  How do clients, investors, and partners define your approach to innovation?
    In order to collect this data, you must ask, survey, and/or run reports. There are many ways to receive feedback or evaluation. How you are perceived by your clientele and stakeholders is important to how your brand and services are translating. It is valuable information that can help reveal whether or not a new approach to innovation is needed.
  2. 2.  What expectations do investors have for your organization?
    If your organization has a track record of successfully innovating, investors will likely be accepting of the risk innovation introduces. It’s important to note however, that without that history of success, some investors may be wary of innovative efforts, and others may not be interested in a great amount of risk overall. As relationships and trust are built through proven success and data, expectation may evolve and allow for more opportunities to take on those risks.
  3. 3.  Does Your Approach to Innovation Align with Competitors?
    Describe your relationship with competitors in relation to innovation. Do they commonly surprise you, or do you run the competition? Frankly, it can be tricky to do an honest comparison with competitors. It’s highly recommended you consider and utilize real business intelligence to facilitate a realistic outlook. This is the time to resource quantifiable data of your position compared to where competitors rank or perform.

 

Requirements of Successful Innovation

To be successful innovators, companies need resources in the form of people, technology, funding, and time, at the very least. The more difficult the innovation, the more resources you are likely to need. Thus, before undertaking any innovation projects, it is important to take stock of the resources you have on tap.

 

Evaluating Your Organization’s Innovation Capabilities

Here are a few thought-provokers to help you think through what you have versus what you need:

  1. 1.  How are innovative opportunities discovered?
    1. a.  Internal ideas
    2. b.  Keeping an eye on competitors
    3. c.  Listening to customers or clients
    4. d.  Other ways
  2. 2.  Do employees stay rigidly within the parameters of their role, or do they regularly branch out and offer new ideas?
  3. 3.  Is innovation rewarded and are risks acceptable and failures seen as learning opportunities, or is the reverse true?
  4. 4.  How much funding is your organization willing/able to invest in innovation?
  5. 5.  Does your organization have the bandwidth to devote the time and attention needed as well as the expertise for the innovation being considered?

Time and expertise are essential but are often commodities that are in short supply. InfoWorks is able to free up your time by providing expert consultants who can lead your team to a successful project completion. We offer total business solutions in the areas of data & analytics, technology solutions, and operations management, with a focus on delivering solutions for today that your team can succeed with well into the future.

 

Your Organization and Innovation

Now, it is time to pull all of the data together and form a realistic view of the innovative mindset within your organization. Companies with the most conservative approach to innovation see it as making small changes which have a positive impact. Those that are more risk tolerant want their innovations to be ground-breaking for the company and disruptive for the marketplace. Most companies probably fall somewhere in-between these two extremes, from adopting an environment where more pronounced, incremental improvements from within are embraced to being a source of new developments that reach outside the confines of the company.

Know it is possible to have multiple innovation styles occurring within your organization, such as leading the marketplace in one area and only making small innovative improvements in another discipline. The market, competitors, and investor expectations all affect how you innovate and strategize. This understanding of your organization’s vision and history of innovation should give you insights into where improvements could be made.