If innovation is the key to competitive advantage for your business then it becomes very important that as a business you are positioned to leverage it successfully.
So what is Innovation?
The Australian Government Business resource site refers to Innovation as “renewing, changing or creating more effective processes, products or ways of doing things”
This can be a big deal when it comes to business. It’s not easy to suddenly change the way you have been doing things for not just years but decades, even centuries. But this is the reality we live in today.
From old ways to new ways
Companies are constantly making headlines with radical new ways of doing once familiar and old things. The use of mobile phones, iPads, cloud computing, digital fabrication, and many more are reshaping the world, as we know it. They are providing opportunities for new processes, tools, products, services and jobs.
Knowledge once accumulated over a lifetime and handed down from generation to generation is now available easily, quickly and often courtesy of our friend ‘Google’.
For example, my daughter needed to complete a legal studies assignment recently on the impact on society and peoples opinion of the 1958 Crimes Act from then until now. It was a fascinating piece of research when focussing on the penalties and offences relating to murder. So many changes in society have occurred since 1959. The removal of the death penalty was just one of them.
Then verses Now
What struck me the most was the comparison between what I would have had to do to complete that assignment and what she could now do.
Back in my day (not that long ago) the assignment would’ve required me to get a lift to the local library, engage the assistance of the librarian who was hopefully knowledgeable enough to advise me what to manually look up in some encyclopaedia which would lead me to another book and so on until I had probably no more than half a page to a page worth of information. A tedious and uninteresting exercise.
My daughter on the other hand in a couple of hours from the luxury of her home and from her own laptop, was able to find through an internet search, newspaper clippings recently uploaded and reported on by the Sun Herald of headline events that shaped and contributed to the amendment of the crimes act as we know it today. Photographs, research articles and results of polls detailing public opinion over the years in response to world events and whether the death penalty should be reinstated were all easily located and provided rich content for her now very interesting response to her assignment question.
Jim Minifie from BRW was right when he wrote just a few days ago in his article “4 ways to boost Australian Innovation”
Old boundaries are blurring. What counts as knowledge is changing: the basics are accessible to all online, but the depth needed of a true expert has never been deeper. What counts as talent is changing: some skills that once were prized are becoming automated, while others are coming into their own.
One step at a time
The bottom line is for a business to succeed it must innovate. While some have the resources to leap frog their competitors with bold & radical changes, for the majority it will be a continuous process of incremental improvements to existing processes and offerings.
It is inevitable however, that innovation will be a catalyst for business growth and people must be willing to adapt in order for that business to be successful.
Predictability breeds complacency
Businesses need to keep improving and changing despite the fact that they might be doing well. They can’t afford to become complacent. They need to learn how to harness imagination and ingenuity and be willing to shape the culture of a company to drive and support innovation and to make it an in-built part of their business strategy.
Using the right Platform
To be able to do this well a business needs to operate from the right platform. One that connects both customers and employees, that is collaborative, gives room for new ideas for improving processes, products and services and which can measure the outcomes of those ideas. When you change the environment in which a business operates through the introduction of a new or different technology platform it creates an opportunity for people to change.
If you train and empower your employees to think innovatively in that context they will adapt. The key is making the platform a strategic priority with enough investment in it to see it not just through the initial implementation phase but beyond. Innovation needs time to develop and to establish a new norm, replacing old habits with new ones and as a result removing legacy thinking and replacing it with innovative thinking and creative problem solving.