Let’s say that “innovation” has become a key word for your organization and your team.
If that’s the case, where do you start?
Start out with the mindset that there’s a lot of opportunity to do things differently, if you think about innovation as the “fixing of problems.” Innovation need not be strictly the development of new products or services; there’s plenty of opportunity to be had by focusing on existing business methods, processes, structure and methodologies.
One of the easiest ways to find opportunities for innovation is by looking for the things that are “broken,” and figuring out how to fix them! For example:
- Look for your blind spots. Where are you lacking information which leads to missed opportunities in your marketplace, failure to provide stellar customer service or excessive operating costs? Undertake a simple “information inventory,” with the idea of identifying where you are lacking in the critical insight you need to be innovative.
- Identify where you have been making decisions while in the dark. As part of inventory, identify the situations where you’ve missed opportunities, have made the wrong decision, or have been misfocused because you simply had the wrong information, or have had the right information at the wrong time. You could call this your insight deficit. That’s one of the first areas that you can focus on for innovative opportunities.
- Highlight your big failures. Where did things really go wrong: where are there excessive issues concerning quality, customer relationships, time to market or other aspects of your organization where you have simply failed to do what should have been done? If you take the time to find and confront your biggest foul-ups, you’ll discover plenty of opportunities for innovation.
- Identify the biggest threats. undertake an assessment of the biggest challenges that you might face on a six month, one year and five year horizon. Where might new competitors emerge? What current shortcomings might cause you to miss opportunities? Where might “blurring” within your industry or market sector occur as a result of continuous product or service evolution?
- Focus on fear. Get scared. Look to your competition for insight on what you might be missing. What is the most innovative thing that they are doing? What levels of risk and creativity are they willing to deal with that you aren’t? And what is the real impact if you don’t do something drastic right now to catch up?
- Look for the “lost causes.” Where are you simply wasting a lot of time, doing things that you shouldn’t be doing? For example, do you have a sales force that spends more time looking for information and insight into specific customers than they do selling? A marketing team that is still focused on fighting the brand wars of yesterday as opposed to the ridiculously fast changing consumer preferences of today? Where are you simply spending too much time undertaking futile activities?
- Identify resource-leakage. Where is valuable talent being unnecessarily diverted? Is your management team constantly fighting fires, rather than focusing on strategy and opportunity? Do you have a customer service staff that is busy putting data into twelve different databases, rather than fixing customer problems? Take the time to figure out where you are wasting a lot of valuable time doing things you shouldn’t be doing.
- Pinpoint your weaknesses. List the things you can’t do, but that you should be able to do. Where can you see shortcomings in your capabilities compared to the competition or high fliers in other industries? Who are you losing business and employees to and why? And what could you be doing differently to avoid these problems?
- Find your routines, and break them. What are you doing that is absolutely, positively ridiculous – but you keep on doing it because you’ve always done it that way?
Innovative organizations are full of people who have been through the“tactical to strategic transition.”,That’s one of the reasons why ideas flow freely: people are firmly focused on the opportunities of tomorrow rather than the problems of today.
How can you achieve this? By changing the focus of your staff, so they think differently. You want to ensure that they move away from anything that is routine, day to day, task oriented, into a role in which they apply their skills and talents in a way that helps the organization change, innovate, grow and prosper.