Planting the Seeds of Innovation

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Innovation is an overused word. Yet, it is a corporate initiative I’ve witnessed my entire career. I took many classes on it. What I’ve found is that not only is ‘innovation’ a cliche, it is also misunderstood by management whose job it is to innovate.

There are several types of innovation, but here are three:

  • product
  • process
  • business model

Product Innovation

Product innovation is about leveraging new technologies. This might be done to enhance a current product, add capability, or create something entirely new.

It’s difficult to remember what our lives were like pre-smart phones or before the internet. But since most of us are old to have watched these tech advances unfold, we can’t forget they still are unfolding in each decade. Where we began was a much different internet and cellular phone. 

Process Innovation

Process innovation encompasses all areas of a business. Change in processes take insight, knowledge about company dynamics and energy. Lots of energy. Because innovation has to change entrenched processes.

Excellent product innovation without process innovation means an ineffectual market entry.

Business Model Innovation

A fundamental change in how a business operates is innovation in the model. Amazon started with just books. That’s all they sold. Finding new markets for online shopping invented new arms to the body of their business.

The fact is, most people are comfortable with the way things are today. They don’t like change and are happy to continue doing what they’ve been doing for years. 

That’s why change, especially in large and older companies, takes so much energy to overcome the inherent inertia.

Technology and progress aren’t standing still. Companies whose workforce is made of many employees with many years of service create an attitude of change resistance.

How often have we heard large companies talk about “nimble” start-ups and try to emulate them – often failing?

A Clean Sheet of Paper

When I was asked to initiate a completely new look at business opportunities for a company, it was like being given a clean sheet of paper. It almost seemed a daunting task on where and how to begin.

Bouncing Ideas

What I find extremely effective is to bounce ideas off people. As I started gathering trends on where the world is moving, the competitive space and how others in different industries were responding, it was important for me to share this with others. 

As we shared ideas, we developed new areas of opportunity and excellent dialogue about the “art of the possible” and where we thought the company should head in the near, mid and long term. It is exciting.

The energy and excitement attracted other like-minded people and I was able to “borrow” amazing talent from 5 different departments within the company – all without any headcount.

Planting Seeds

I’m also a firm believer in planting seeds of thoughts. It might not be the right time that day, but when you give new ideas and people sleep on it, over time it starts gaining traction and can truly grow into some tangible business actions. It doesn’t have to take long. Plant seeds early on and see what happens.

It’s all about making people happy to go to work. Raise the level of thinking, practice articulating effectively your thoughts and ideas, and you will influence and drive change as well as true innovation. You have the power to make innovation happen.

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