Once you have an innovation engine, you’ll be in a strong position to actually execute your transformative ideas

Ready for Take-off: Let’s Build an Innovation Engine

January 15, 2020
Anja Hoffmann

Great manufacturing innovations, like industrial robotics, Additive Manufacturing, virtual and augmented manufacturing and fully automated warehouses, didn’t come to market because their developers and business leaders set themselves easily attainable goals. We cannot build smarter businesses on a weak foundation and we will never see any continuous innovation in our business if we stick to business as usual. 


Innovations have changed the course of human history

As 4IR technologies continue to transform industries, it is up to us as business owners and developers to tap into these new business opportunities. By moving into industrial innovations beyond the traditional business core, we are able to tap into new business opportunities. Let’s get our innovation strategy back to basics and pursue big transformative goals.

  • How do you choose which of your ideas should get the investments needed to bring them to reality?
  • What should we discuss to reach out to transformation?
  • How do we find innovative ways of reaching out to stakeholders?

One of the things I always get asked about from the companies I work with is how to find the right innovation partners. Should we bet on collaboration with universities, public and private research institutions, start-ups or other companies - even our competitors? This is always a good question.

Most likely to succeed: Transforming our business for the industry 4.0

Through years of working with industrial companies and deep-tech companies, one of the things that I’ve noticed is a direct link between an imaginative team and the ability to explore cutting-edge science and technologies, and to develop new innovation strategies. Teams who have tapped into new ecosystems and implemented or tested technologies, like cloud, IoT, Business Intelligence and Analytics, and Machine Learning, are moving transformations forward. These companies change rules with partners to reach a new level of innovation and boost growth.   Advanced technologies require a deeply engaged team of internal and external members that will redefine the business and generate new business opportunities. We need to take the pulse of our capabilities and map the ones we are missing to succeed in our innovation. 


Some big thoughts don’t make a lot of noise, yet have the potential to make a great and transformative impact on our businesses. We’re only on the verge of industry 4.0 – and tomorrow’s businesses are driven forward by automation technologies and innovations. What happens when we combine the strength of human creativity with investments in automation technologies and new strategic partnerships? All too often, business leaders fail to link their innovation efforts to strategic objectives. Without an innovation strategy, our efforts will remain stuck in the organizational mud. And we’ll end up in a strategic dumpster. 

Programmed to think that failure is bad

A strong innovation strategy allows long-term and visionary thinking. Winning companies are increasingly partnering with new strategic partners within science and technologies and they are testing ideas they wouldn’t have been open to a few years ago.

One of the interesting things I found in my consulting work is that companies that invested in explorative partnerships eventually hit on something big with a positive impact on the bottom line. Innovation failure is a harsh reality. Innovation begins with curiosity, attitudes and a strong desire to see things differently. Innovation of any kind begins with self-concept; how we see ourselves. A lack of personal responsibility can lead to a lack of the ability to innovate. Organizations become stuck in daily routines and operations. However, when we become responsible for our innovations efforts, collaborations, and trust, our businesses are more likely to be transformed successfully.

The takeaway from my experiences? It’s easy to think of innovation challenges just as technical challenges. But there are often cultural challenges for sure. Every day we have the opportunity to help others innovate. As we realize how our organization is wired, it becomes central for us to create a culture that is open for new inputs and innovative partnerships. If we want to adjust our innovation leadership and transform our business, it is important to have a deep understanding of our own capabilities so we can set the right team and develop the needed partnerships around our innovation initiatives. If we want to succeed, it’s important to have an open discussion about the differences between operating the daily business and leading innovation.

Innovation calls for both IT knowledge and business knowledge. If we can’t connect our business with new IT solutions, our innovation will fail. Whether we operate a small business or corporate company, our customers are expecting new solutions and better (digital) customer experiences. Companies that lack innovation and digitalisation will fail. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but one day soon. We cannot bet on our competitors are slower than us to develop smarter solutions. There’s a lot of hungry competition in the industry 4.0 and we won’t get far if we’re not willing to open our world to new possibilities. Through innovation, we set out to reimagine ourselves.

Executing on innovation? Remember no one succeeds alone. We cannot be successful in an ambitious way alone. We need new insights and ideas. We need new business partners. It does not matter what our goal is. No one innovates alone.

To move forward, an ecosystem for innovation must be built

In order to determine whether to engage in new external partnerships, we should first understand the technologies and trends in our industry. It is vital for our innovation success that we are committed to invest in an ecosystem for innovation. Our traditional business thinking have to become a thing of the past.

How can we suck the status quo out of our board room? How do we recognize that external partnerships allow us to augment our innovation capabilities?

At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter how others frame innovation. What really matters is what innovation means to our business. We can look around our culture, how wired we are, and find the right partners and tools to enrich our business of tomorrow.

What could we achieve with a more dynamic culture, new kinds of partnerships, and the right balance between operations and innovation?

If you are curious about how your company can make your innovation more operational and how you can engage in new partnerships, feel free to contact me and tap into my extensive network of scientists, thought leaders and developers.