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Innovation as a thought and not a process is problematic

Most people refer to innovation like it’s a thought rather than a process. In fact, if you explore it’s meaning, innovation is defined as the action or process of innovating.  However, this is obviously quite a broad statement, even for a definition, and clearly doesn’t provide any context for understanding.

Steve Jobs famously said that, “innovation in a company has nothing to do with the amount of money available for research and development. After all, when the iMac was first introduced, IBM was spending ten times more on research than Apple. Jobs went on to say that innovation is about the people in a business, how these people are led and how much they understand the objective of innovation.”

Needless to say, this is a much more contextual way to explain the meaning of innovation and in reality, there is no one definition.

Innovation, like everything else, is up for interpretation and it really only matters that the process is being practiced in an organisation. However, let’s first take a quick look at how organisations fall down with this crucial process.

Where Organisations Fall Down with Innovation

Many people and organizations alike, make the mistake of confusing ideas for innovation. That is to say, ideas are often regarded as innovation yet the idea is not really the action or the process itself.

But what does this mean for organisations?

It means that organisations might be coming up with ideas but without executing these ideas, they are simply not innovative organisations. And this is why so many organisations fail to scale or keep up with the competition, they fail to support the most crucial aspect of innovation – execution.

Needless to say, there is reason for this lack of action and it usually comes in the form of time and money. After all, innovation requires manpower and funding, so without these factors – nothing happens.

The Importance of Innovation to an Organisation

If you believe any of the most influential leaders of today, innovation is the spark that allows every organisation to access opportunities and have a competitive edge in a crowded market.

Jeff Bezos and Amazon. Tim Cook and Apple. Elon Musk and Tesla. Mark Zuckerburg and Facebook. The list is endless.

And that’s just part of the story…

Innovation has always been important. After all, we look at Facebook, Amazon and many more platforms as giants of the tech industry but without the internet, there would be no such thing as social media or any of these businesses.

In case you were wondering, the internet was first created by DARPA, an intelligence agency set up by the United States government. This technology was a response to Sputnik by the USSR and the result of some exceptional innovation. Needless to say, the project was also well funded and supported with whatever manpower was necessary.

But back to the average organisation, innovation is needed to develop original concepts just as much as brand new groundbreaking concepts. If an organisation has a culture of innovation like Google, Facebook, Tesla or any other giant, they can grow and evolve faster than the competition.

When Organisations Successfully Execute Innovation

Innovation is central to the success of most organisations and when it’s done right, this creative approach can solve problems and even provide solutions for issues that have yet to present themselves. We can see this in many of the most successful businesses of today including all of the above and many more besides.

For example, Patagonia has taken huge strides in recent years and a very innovative approach to their presence in the outdoor industry. Sensing a shift of sentiment toward environmental activism, the company used this insight and positioned the brand and company more so in terms of corporate social responsibility. Patagonia has taken a firm stance on political issues and the move has had a profoundly positive impact on their position in the market. Furthemore, this unique approach has also helped energize their marketing efforts and infuse excitement into their product innovation.

Taking the right innovative approach can also save organisations time and allow them to take advantage of a competitive lead in scaling the business.

For example, Netflix was first created in Silicon Valley back in 1999 and while many thought the platform would fail, it is now home to more than 100 million subscribers. More importantly, Netflix continues to outperform competitors with an innovative approach. Instead of merely focusing on uploading films, Netflix has invested in its own original series. Also, Netflix sought to improve the customer experience and rolled out an incredibly smooth interface which stands out from the crowd.

Truth is, innovation is critical for success nowadays and often the difference that enables the major players to stay up top. What’s more; how an organisation defines innovation is not really that important – so long as innovation is executed and not just something to think about.

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