Innovation cannot be limited to a single business unit, buzzwords in a report, or on a poster in the board room. It should be the principal focus in the company DNA.
Innovation cannot be limited to a single business unit, buzzwords in a report, or on a poster in the board room. It should be the principal focus in the company DNA.

Everyone Talks About Innovation - But How?

May 4, 2016
Anja Hoffmann

Businesses today are increasingly seeking new cooperative models to get started quickly with business ideas, decrease time to market and business value, and reduce complexity to better serve the business. A disruptive force is right around the corner, let’s check out technologies and trends shaping tomorrow’s business.

There are a lot of business executives who are dreaming to be the “disruptors” redefining their industry. Some may have the leadership skills and knowledge and of course have the strength of “disruptive thinking”. It just does not seem executives and boards are confident in business innovation. Most businesses want more value from assets, not less. To compete in today’s fast-changing world, businesses need a steady stream of innovative business ideas. For that to happen leaders need to encourage and practice new thinking and initiate transformative work processes.

But How?
Business transformation isn’t a matter of “if” but when and how. Is your business prepared for the next wave of innovation opportunities? So what's the starting point for your business? How does your organisation translate trends and new technologies into actions and next steps? 

New technologies offer tremendous innovative opportunities and potential for synergies across industries, governments and organizations. To foster an innovative mindset in your organization, try to answer a few thought provoking questions:

  • What is your company’s appetite for transformation in the near term?
  • Who have a role to play in delivering game-changing customer experiences, new values and services?
  • How can your company draw a new road map for growth and innovation?
  • At which point in the value chain should the organization concentrate its resources to have a real impact?
  • How do we translate hype into real business values?
  • How do we engage with the SDGs?
  • What would happen if we _________?

After going through these questions, you should be able to generate hypotheses that will challenge the established way of looking at your business and industry. New perspectives or questions can lead to innovative business breakthroughs.

Which technologies can increase your company’s profits?
Technologies are changing the way leaders think about the business ecosystem and the speed at which they can achieve new value for their business.

Businesses leaders today should execute projects that are in the current top ‘emerging technologies’. Simultaneously they should pay attention to the 2025 stars.

I encourage you to explore the report New Technologies - What is hype and where is the opportunity? by PA Consulting.  

Successful corporate innovation: It's a mindset
The winners of tomorrow will be those organizations with game-changing leaders, who have great purpose, solve a problem, disrupt an existing market, or create a new market – they are meaningful. Real game changers understand the power of people and they unlock the opportunities of transformational technologies.

I agree with Julian Birkinshaw, Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship and Academic Director at LBS on the three suggested mechanisms for successful corporate innovation:

  • Companies need to get leaner and more agile. They need to de-layer and remove processes to get closer to their customers
  • They could choose to work directly with the start-ups threatening to disrupt them. Unilever, for example, now pitches specific challenges to innovators. It is the company’s way of getting nearer to smaller, innovative businesses
  • Buy an innovative and experimental ‘fast second’ company through which you can enter new markets. Microsoft took this approach when it bought Skype in 2011. Money and muscle can be used to bring innovation in. 

These three mechanisms are just a small range of options available to corporates innovating. They all work. But it’s up to the organisations to choose their strategy."
Julian Birkinshaw

Great companies have a bigger purpose
As business leaders, we need to get to a place where we do not assume that an innovative initiative - useful for reducering energy and waste disposal costs or building resilient infrastructures is just a good thing but central to the future of our company's core business.

The SDGs represent new challenges and innovative opportunties for business - its 17 goals will add a layer of complexity and new operating practices. Companies that are aware of the benefits of circular thinking are more likely to have alignment with emerging policy and regulation, giving them a new competitive edge. How ready is your business to achieve the SDGs? 

If you are unprepared for the future innovations, then you lose the opportunities. A company’s innovation capacity comes down to its talent pool, mindset, and its commitment to invest in people. Tomorrow I expect you to create a new organisational approach to innovative business models, talents and strategic partnerships. Anyone can change his or her behaviour to improve the innovative impact in an organisation. The challenging question: Do you dare to think and act different?

Want to increase innovation? Lower the cost of failure.

- Joichi Ito