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Can a business thrive in the age of continuous innovation?

 
 

Next Gen Insights | Bea Tartsanyi |
04 February 2019

The short answer is simple: yes–by continuously accelerating progress against your innovation agenda with your highest focus on execution.

But let’s take a step back and look at this from a wider perspective.            

The fourth industrial revolution, emerging technologies, high growth disruptors from left, right and centre, and changing customer expectations are now the norm–and we all know continuous digital transformation and innovation need to become core skills in business to cope. It is now a fact that failing to quickly address digital disruption will result in ground lost to competitors and disruptors.

For some, this might seem like a daunting challenge because they don’t know how to go about it. However, the good news is that you don’t need to do it alone. With expert guidance and acquisition of the right skills, organisations can accelerate innovation and deliver business value at speed.

I see innovation as a continuous loop of activities; where long term strategic wins will be made out of smaller, quick wins by following an agile cycle of discovery, testing, and iteration.

But effective delivery of these activities requires building a different set of skills–exemplified through curiosity, creative problem solving, empathy, ability to understand and interpret technology trends, or aptitude to choose and apply the most fitting innovation methodologies. Some might naturally possess these skills, and some might need to build them over time. But any business focused on remaining relevant–let alone thriving–in the age of continuous innovation should consider starting this process sooner than later.

Successful innovation programs need to stand on the right building blocks:

Strategy
Build the foundation on which innovation can thrive. Understand your current situation, articulate your future state, and develop a roadmap that will take you there. Spending the right amount of time here will help you avoid the “innovation theatre syndrome”.

Execution
Think about the tools, methodologies, processes and skills your team need for rapidly churning out ideas and turning them into reality.

Scale
Determine how can you drive progress through the entire organisation and shift from an old failure-prone, siloed mindset towards a more collaborative and entrepreneurial culture with a “fail fast, learn quickly” mentality.

These building blocks are equally important; however, the most critical element you need to secure is having expert capability to execute ideas, as this will deliver the biggest impact to your program. A master at bringing innovative ideas to life, Steve Jobs had a proven angle on this challenge:

“To me, ideas are worth nothing unless executed. They are just a multiplier. Execution is worth millions.”

Once you are ready to get started, here are a few additional principles to bear in mind:

1. Start small: before you attempt to scale your program, run a few smaller projects. Draw on key learnings, identify what went well, and what could be improved. Even at this early stage, choose projects which are aligned with key company objectives, so you can demonstrate how your innovation efforts and investments are helping to accelerate solutions to key business problems. Having this connection will support your funding discussions.

2. Understand the problem: before you begin ideating on potential solutions, ensure you properly understand and unpack the problem from both the perspectives of customer need as well as an internal business problem.

3. Build dedicated cross-functional teams: collaboration and cross-pollination of diverse expertise and individual perspectives will create exponential returns on innovation investment. Select members whose disciplines are germane to your problem (business knowledge, UX, technical delivery, etc.) and make sure to keep the team lean. “Small but mighty” works best.

4. Explore the “art of the possible”: don’t get stuck in the here and now. Dare to dream up the future and find clever and quick ways that can help you test your assumptions.

5. Prototype, test, prove, iterate–and do it as quickly as possible: instead of wasting money on years of development only to find the solution you were working toward is no longer relevant, find quick ways to prototype your idea and test it with end users as soon as possible. Draw learnings, make changes, and do it again.

6. Consider the path to production: involve senior stakeholders early on. Don’t surprise your IT security and architecture teams with your shiny new project a day before you want to launch. Plan for how your platform can scale, from a system and support perspective as well as the staffing overhead required to sustain it.

The exciting thing about innovation is that it never ends. Pay attention to incremental innovation to keep continuously improving your core proposition, while at the same time think about the “art of the possible”. Push your boundaries and exploit technological innovations and new business models. Successfully caring for and combining these aspects will position your business to thrive in the age of continuous innovation.

Bea Tartsanyi

Innovation Lead

Bea is a creative innovator with over 10 years experience working with global market leading corporates and fast paced innovative start-ups. She runs innovation projects all the way from idea to production. Bea is passionate about connecting the dots and coming up with new concepts to solve pressing business problems. She strongly believes in the power of collaboration, crowdsourcing and dark chocolate.

 

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