Planting Seeds for Innovation

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Innovation is a word used often in corporations, work groups and books. It was a key corporate initiative throughout my entire career and I took many classes on it – but it seems to be overused and often misunderstood.

There are several major types of innovation: product innovation, process innovation and business model innovation. 

Product Innovation

Product innovation is about leveraging new technologies to enhance, add capability or create something entirely new. It’s difficult to remember what our lives were like pre-smart phones or pre-internet, yet most of us are old enough to remember life before they existed. 

Process Innovation

Let’s talk a bit about process Innovation. Process innovation encompases all areas of a business. It takes insight, knowledge about the company itself and energy. Lots of energy. It’s about changing the status quo. 

In my opinion, you can have excellent product innovation but if you don’t couple that hand in hand with process innovation, you can be ineffective in the marketplace.

Business Model Innovation

That leads us to business model innovation which is usually about a fundamental change in how the business operates. A good example that comes to mind is Amazon – they started with just books and are constantly re-inventing all aspects of their business and creating new markets.

Just Give the Facts, Jack

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 with large percentages of their workforce with many years of service and an attitude of resisting change have huge challenges to overcome. 

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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