Sunday January 10, 2021
What is innovation?
While I am not keen on engaging in lengthy debates about definitions, I think it is important to define ‘innovation’, as it has to be one of the most overused and misunderstood buzzwords bandied around the business world! In ‘The Little Black Book of Innovation’, Scott Antony defines innovation in five words, ‘Something different that has impact’. This is undoubtedly my favourite definition of innovation.
Put simply, innovation is a process of having an idea and implementing it. It is not about inventing something new, as many people mistakenly believe; it is about introducing something different to what is already being done, in order to bring about positive change.
In Anthony’s words, ‘Innovation is the imperative for today's times…’ We all have to be innovators, if we are to excel in this ever-changing world, and particularly, during this pandemic. Innovation is valuable to all of us. It can help us build better businesses and improve the world we live in. It can have economic, social, environmental, strategic and personal value.
One of the biggest myths about innovation is that this is something that only technology-rich start-ups or high growth firms do. Whilst innovation is essential for these businesses, innovation is just as relevant to others - including small businesses and ventures led by solopreneurs.
If you want to build your business resilience, develop your competitive edge or boost your profitability, then innovation is essential for achieving such aims.
Where can I innovate?
Innovation is often associated with new product development. While this is indeed one area where a business can innovate, it is not the only one. I have identified six areas where a business can innovate, those being:
- Product, services and user experiences, i.e. the business offer;
- Business models, i.e. how the business creates and delivers value;
- Processes, i.e. how the business does things;
- People, i.e. the stakeholders who have an impact on the business (such as your team, customers, suppliers, partners, and distributors etc.);
- Communication, i.e. how the business communicates with its stakeholders;
- Technology, i.e. how the business uses technology to do its job.
Whilst you may want to innovate in one particular area of your business, it is important to remember that your innovation may then have a knock-on effect on other areas of your business.
How can I innovate?
Innovation is not something which happens by mistake - it is a process which needs to be planned and managed carefully. The process itself is made up of four stages:
- Ideation: Generating ideas and identifying possible solutions to a perceived problem;
- Exploration: Analysing your ideas and building on those which seem most viable;
- Testing: Committing to certain ideas which you test out;
- Measuring: Analysing the tangible impact of your innovation and evaluating what could be done differently to improve your innovation.
What are others doing?
If you want to find out how other businesses are innovating, look no further than the award-winning Brighton Gin team, who have been flexing their innovation muscle during the pandemic to build their resilience and remain competitive.
They have innovated new products - creating a new, low-alcohol drink, sold branded face masks, and developed a hand sanitiser - having formed a successful partnership with AS Apothecary. And in terms of their business model, for every hand sanitiser sold, they donate funds to local organisations in need with a ‘pay it forward’ model, or in their words, a ‘spray it forward’ model.
Innovation doesn’t happen overnight. It requires dedicated resource, so that you can explore and test out your new ideas. However, it is worth investing some of your time and budget for innovation purposes, as it can boost your competitive edge, profitability, and ultimately, your business resilience.