What is innovation? If you were to ask executives from every industry to define innovation, I’m certain the answers would differ dramatically. Understanding how innovation drives business success is likely at the forefront of most executives’ minds. Nevertheless, businesses often face the challenge of defining what innovation means to them and how to tackle such a broad subject.
The Harvard Business Review describes four distinct types of innovation:
- Sustaining Innovation – Seeking to get better at what you are already doing.
- Breakthrough Innovation – Tackling a well-defined problem that’s hard to solve.
- Disruptive Innovation – Innovating one’s business model.
- Basic Research – Researching a problem that is not well-defined in the hopes of discovering a new phenomenon.
Some of the most successful businesses are those that are extremely skilled at creating innovative strategies that map to one or more of these definitions. So, how should your business create your innovation strategy?
Step 1 – Define Innovation
The first step on your innovation journey is to define what it means to your company. Do you know a well-defined problem that you believe your business is well suited to solve? Do you see the need to completely disrupt your own business model to fuel growth? Or, do you see your company well suited to pursue multiple types of innovation? No matter the decision, before creating any plan or strategic roadmap, start with defining what innovation means to your company. At Kenway, we have a guiding principle: “To never rest on our laurels, always looking to the future to identify necessary changes to maintain and improve Kenway’s strategic advantages.” In alignment with this principle, Kenway Consulting pursues sustaining innovation by seeking to get better at what we are already doing. For example, recently several Kenway consultants began piloting Design Thinking and determining how it could help Kenway and our clients.
Step 2 – Get Others Involved
The more people involved and excited about innovation, the more likely it is to succeed. Kenway Consulting recently launched what we call our Innovation and Analytics Lab. The Innovation and Analytics Lab’s goal is simple: To help empower Kenway consultants to pursue getting better at what we are already doing (sustaining innovation). For example, Kenway has many business intelligence and data experts. It was natural that our consultants would aspire to move into tangential areas, such as Big Data. With that being said, we now have innovation initiatives around using Big Data to help solve problems we face internally as well as assessing the needs of our clients. The Innovation and Analytics Lab connected our consultants’ passion with the resources necessary to make their great ideas a reality. Simply put, at Kenway, we understand that our people make us successful. We believe that the more involved our consultants are in the innovation process, the better the ideas that are generated.
Step 3 – Rinse & Repeat
Like anything in today’s fast moving technological world, things change quickly and often. If you study some of the most successful companies and entrepreneurs, one characteristic that many share is the ability to quickly pivot. Part of a successful innovation strategy starts with accepting that this strategy may change over time. Understanding your customers, the market and how these factors play into your innovation strategy will help educate your decision. Perhaps today your strategy is built around sustaining innovation, and tomorrow you realize your company is well suited to solve a well-defined problem (Breakthrough Innovation). In short, flexibility is key to successful innovation.
In order to create an innovation strategy for your business, follow three steps: Define Innovation, Get Others Involved, and Rinse & Repeat. As former head of research at General Motors, Charles Kettering said, “If you have always done it that way, it is probably wrong.” With that being said, I encourage each and every one of you reading this to challenge the status quo and start to innovate! If you’re interested in learning more about Kenway Consulting and how we approach innovation, then shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.