Innovation at work is an enduring and popular business topic. Innovation is usually remembered in the creation of large, new, technology products like the personal computer, the smart phone, or computer software. These vitally important innovations can mask the fact that a great deal of vital, critical, and significant innovations are small ones that incrementally improve products or services.
Follow these considerations to help create and inspire small workplace innovations that can deliver BIG results.
How to Inspire Innovation – Be Open to New Ideas. The first part of innovation is not technology, math or science. The first step in innovation is closely looking at yourself, your customers, and your company to determine that you are open to finding, discovering, and implementing new ideas to help your customers, your employees, and your company succeed. Remember, innovation, change, and the implementation of change is always difficult, but it is not always successful. Looking at minor changes, small innovations, for most companies can often be more successful.
How to Inspire Innovation – What More Can You Do for Customers? A profound way to start innovation is to look how customers use and do not use your products and services. Innovation questions can rarely be answered looking at customer survey responses or by examining internal data. Instead, sit, talk, listen, and observe how customers use, interact, and decide how to use your products. This is true innovation research because it cuts through PowerPoint, charts, and statistics and leaves you with the trends, words, and actions of customers.
How to Inspire Innovation – Where Are Customer Trends Going? Innovation is largely driven by the trends that customers are looking at for their next new thing. Innovation can be a flavor of BBQ at a restaurant, a new app for a smartphone, or a new way to learn a foreign language. The key aspect is that innovation is driven by listening. Listening to customers, listening to industry trends, listening to employees, and listening to industry and other thought leaders is the best way to get an idea on trends. In addition, where are industry trends converging. The best way to understand how to improve an industry or a customer experience may come from outside the industry, not within it.
How to Inspire Innovation – Create a Test Project to Prove the Potential. Once you have spoken to customers, industry leaders, and made your internal case for innovation, then create a test project or a pilot project to demonstrate, understand, and verify how the innovation will work in the real world. Very few industries and companies have total breakout innovation products (the Apple iPhone is an example of a breakout innovation product) where the industry is transformed. Instead, make a lot of good “base hits” instead of relying on home runs that are rare. Internally, test projects that achieve results, gather positive customer feedback, and show the value of incremental innovations build an incredible level of momentum and potential. Finally, even if a test project is unsuccessful, the cost and lost potential is minimal.
How to Inspire Innovation – Watch Your Small Competitors Closely. Small competitors often have great ideas that diverge significantly from standard industry operating practices. Paying close attention to small companies helps businesses understand innovation trends because small companies are operating differently, creatively, and with less capital so they can be successful among standard industry players.
How to Inspire Innovation – Create A Way to Attract & Use Your Customer Input. When a company innovates, finding a method to advertise, attract, interpret, and adjust based on customer feedback of pilot projects is essential. Some companies create their own customer innovation websites and social media platforms so customers can create, test, and offer products and solutions to the company itself. Whatever the way, the gathering, analysis, and input customers offer with on their own innovations or company innovations is essential to the innovation process.
Innovation is what customers and business want together. Business want new ways to show their value and customers want to appreciate the new value. Create small innovations to deliver big results.
Share some of your ideas to inspire innovation at work.
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Chad Storlie is a Retired US Army Officer, the author of Combat Leader to Corporate Leader and has published over 230 articles in over 110 publications on military veterans, career advancement, business, leadership, strategy, education, financial planning, and national security topics. Chad excels as an author, mentor, speaker, and teacher showing business leaders and military veterans how military skills make lives, careers, and businesses better. Chad is an adjunct Professor of Marketing at Creighton University. Chad has a BA from Northwestern University and an MBA from Georgetown University. Follow Chad @CombatToCorp and www.CombatToCorporate.com.
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