Organizations are looking for ways to remain competitive and relevant to their consumers. Consumers continue to demand for more value because they understand what they want. The market place has become more dynamic than ever before forcing organizations to find ways of staying relevant through innovation. Here are some ways an organization can fully unlock its innovation capabilities.

Fostering an innovation culture

Every organization has a way of doing things. Incorporating the word ‘innovation’ in your mission, vision or values is not a guarantee that your organization will enjoy a culture of innovation. It is important that all employees understand what innovation is and the part they play in helping the organization achieve an innovation culture. While there could be one person driving the innovation process or agenda, each person must understand that no single person can be a master creator or innovator. Innovation thrives where there are many ideas regardless of how ridiculous they may sound. The more the ideas the better since the innovation process starts with ideation , through to idea screening before these ideas are developed. Having an idea book for instance will help in keeping track of all ideas and ensuring that none is forgotten or dropped off.

Strategic approach to innovation

Organizations that lead through innovation have made innovation part of their strategy. Such organizations enjoy top management support in driving innovation. Making innovation part of an organization’s strategy means that there exists a pipeline of innovation projects forecasting between three to five years. The pipeline acts as a guide in prioritizing innovation ideas based on an organization’s capabilities and future growth opportunities. Having this forecast will enable the organization to leverage on its resources and maximize on partnerships that fit into its strategy of growth through innovation

Understanding the difference between innovation and R&D

In the early 1950s, the innovation process relied more on research and development as a source of new introductions of products and services into the market. Today, market conditions (the consumer) dictate the process. The changing market dynamics remain a key source of innovation, therefore organizations that value innovation must clearly understand the difference between innovation and R&D. Research and development focuses on developing new products, services or processes. Innovation on the other hand focuses on speed to market that is commercialization by better managing the innovation process to deliver value, faster. Both R & D and innovation are important drivers of innovation for any organization but they remain uniquely different.

Using research to inform innovation

In my earlier years as a sales representative, there was one statement that was agreed by all; ‘numbers don’t lie.’ This is a fact and a vital lesson I have carried through to innovation. Understanding your consumer, the market size and the real need is vital in unlocking innovation capabilities for your organization. An organization, through research must understand the real need of their target consumer and how they can increase value to these consumers while at the same time decrease costs in delivering a product or service. Research is also helpful in understanding the ever changing consumer trends that are vital in informing what ideas to develop. Through research, an organization can identify which ideas have a real commercial potential.

Simplifying complexities

When introducing new products into the market, companies look into the existing market to identify the opportunities that exist and how they can differentiate their product offering. Product differentiation must be understood clearly to avoid trying to be everything. For instance if packaging is a key differentiating factor, the business should focus on delivering this instead of complexities such us product variants and sizes. Avoid too much ‘baggage’ in form of huge quantities of packaging and raw materials since this is usually defined by the suppliers. Fear of loss of revenue through ‘baggage’ can delay decisions that need to be made quickly with regards to dropping off slow moving product variants or sizes after official launches.

Incremental versus breakthrough innovation

Incremental innovation focuses on improvements of products and processes over time. This is less risky and almost always has guaranteed results. Breakthrough innovation on the other hand requires significant upfront innovation investment and focuses on revenue returns much later. Any organization that does not clearly differentiate these two, may end up killing great innovation ideas for immediate gain. Think about Apple who develop fantastic products and make consumer believe they need these products (breakthrough innovation) or Coco cola who over time have innovated around their packaging from the initial glass bottle, into can and PET bottles (incremental) creating more value to both the consumer and the company.

The above may sound simple and maybe obvious but mastering them will enable your organization to fully unlock its innovation capabilities.

Asante (Thanks) for taking time to read. Looking forward to your feedback.