You’ve shared the vision, now take action: Four approaches to innovation

You’ve shared the vision, now take action: Four approaches to innovation

In my last two articles for Smart Company I looked at how businesses can address disruption and define a forward-thinking strategy for success.

Five trends that will disrupt your business

Realising innovation: the importance of a vision for radical change

Here, in the last of this series, I explain approaches to innovation that can help turn your business plans into action.

In ‘Realising innovation: the importance of a vision for radical change’, I emphasised the value of setting a vision for the future that reflects where you want to be, which is both inspiring and open to be delivered in a variety of ways. 

What are the options for being innovative, specifically in a small business sense?

To begin with, when thinking about future disruption it’s valuable to leverage the following:

  • subject matter expertise (e.g. obtain niche business knowledge),
  • an understanding of how people will relate to or use the product or service (e.g. how to ensure it is well designed and usable),
  • design thinking (e.g. a specific method to aid lateral thinking
  • how innovatively it can be taken to market (e.g. look at pricing, partners, APIs, supply chain, etc).

There are four types of innovation approaches to think about, all of which complement each other in different ways at different times.


1. Innovative teams and businesses


“It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”  C.S. Lewis, novelist

What is it?

If your goal is to lift the level of lateral thinking and innovation across your business, there are pragmatic ways to get started.

When to use it?

If your business is open to new competition and disruption, or the world seems to be changing faster than you’re currently adapting to.

How to do it? 

i) If you have a business strategy, identify which of your goals need innovation to be achieved.

ii) Let your team know innovation is encouraged, rewarded and welcomed.  Communicate this by sharing the vision and highlighting participation stories.

iii) Measure it. Record the number of new ideas, number of experiments, customer feedback implemented, the number of new products or services, new partnerships, new processes, and internal disruption of current ways of working.

iv) Set up a shared library, resource centre, process or fund to try out new ideas and for people to receive guidance.


2. Open innovation and start-ups


“When the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.”  Jack Welch, former CEO, General Electric

What is it?

Setting a challenge to external developers, start-ups or parties who choose how they wish to interpret and deliver it. This may involve offering or leveraging the APIs of others.

When to use it?

When you want speed, low cost and different ways of interpreting challenges and innovating. 

How to do it?

You can define the challenge, then ask a broad set of the community to solve it.  

There are some online marketplaces that can connect you to a talent pool, such as fiverr (creative services), Random Hacks of Kindness (technology) or the US-run Challenge Post (software developers) or Switch Pitch (business development). Many more sites are emerging every day.

Alternatively you could attend an event held by another party and in reverse, use it as an opportunity to understand a client’s need and help to develop a solution. 

Examples include attending one of the ‘hackathons’ held by companies including Coca Cola, NAB, PwC and Telstra.


3. Disruptive growth


“The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday, will be sufficient for tomorrow.”  William Pollard, physicist

What is it? 

Think of the Moonshot approach, championed by Google, which says a tenfold improvement is sometimes easier than making something 10% better. This approach is best used if you seek radical growth or exploration in a new space, and a person or small team is mandated over, say, two to six months, to determine a whole new business line or growth play.

When to use it?

When people are too busy in their current environment to think freely and view with fresh eyes, or when the need is too important to be addressed within the team’s current limited time.

How to do it?

i) Set a brief, time and shape of the outcome (e.g. What is a radically different model for car insurance that could generate $10m+ by 2017? Solution to be produced within 12 weeks, with a commercial model as outcome.)

ii) Form a team. Include external representation or leadership to ensure outside-in thinking and disruption to current ways of working.

iii) Determine which approach to use (e.g. design thinking, open innovation) and develop new insights and problems to solve.

iv) The idea will have increased likelihood of success if you seek the perspectives of experts, customers, users, partners, stakeholders or market pilots.


4. Innovation spaces


“Chance favors the connected mind”. [and organisation] Steven Johnson, author

What is it?

A working space and tools to enable multifunction teams across the organisation, along with partners, suppliers or researchers, to collaborate.

When to use it? 

When you want to nurture or incubate different ways of working, either for internal projects, community or customer engagement, or researching or co-creating with partners.

How to do it?

A wide range of examples include co-working spaces that small businesses may leverage or create their own. These include NAB’s The Village, York Butter Factory, and Inspire9 in Melbourne, Tyro, Workbench and Fishburners in Sydney, and River City Labs in Brisbane.

Kate Eriksson is the head of innovation at PwC Australia’s Digital Change services. A stalwart of the digital industry, Kate’s experience and network spans across some of the most iconic digital businesses in the world such as Google, Facebook, Skype and Twitter.


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