Top Tips for Successful Business Innovation

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by The Daily Telegraph, November 6, 2017

In our recent web chat on what it takes to be an innovative business, experts discussed approaches, challenges and pitfalls. 

How do you define innovation?

Bianca Miller-Cole, founder, Bianca Miller London and The Be Group

Innovation is about creating a new solution to an existing problem, or taking an existing solution and making it better. People often think about innovation as being related to technology, but that doesn't consider how companies can innovate the services that they offer to customers, or innovating within the business.

What aspects of a firm can be innovated?

Nelson Phillips, professor of strategy and innovation, Imperial College Business School

Innovation can occur in any part of a business. In fact, some of the most impactful innovations occur in unexpected areas of the value chain, such as delivery (Ocado) or the provision of information to help customers make up their minds (reviews on TripAdvisor).

Innovation is often reactive to customer demands, but when it’s technology driven, it may actually lead consumer tastes and expectations.

What are some successful approaches or processes?

Lynda Hart, head of IT, Volvo

Some of our most successful innovations have come from really expanding our mindsets and trying to stay away from “local blindness” – being a Swedish company, there was a tendency to get lost in local norms and histories. For the release of our latest car, the XC40, teams of designers went around the world and lived with families with similar vehicles to really understand how they use a car today.

Having a global view – one that completely contrasted the views from their local roots – challenged our team to innovate more.

Robert Brock, head of product, Urban Massage

Every business is different and should mould its processes around individual needs. The key ensuring that, as a company, you’re actually open to change.

In line with this is having a willingness to fail fast, and to be brave enough to kill or iterate an idea.

The actual mechanisms for capture ideas and measure success are secondary.

How can innovation play a role for small firms?

Ms Miller-Cole, Bianca Miller London and The Be Group

Knowing your customers is core to innovation. Depending on the size of your business, customer relationships can actually be your biggest revenue driver.

They will tell you what they need or want, which can guide you. Negative and positive feedback is a gift for innovation.

What are the key components of a successful innovation strategy?

Rebecca Haigh, head of innovation, Heineken UK

A successful strategy should focus on driving penetration, but also driving incremental value for you and your customers.

At Heineken, there are always lots of ideas that could be implemented, but we only choose those that will really make a difference.

How can we measure innovation?

Mr Brock, Urban Massage

Focus on the value that you drive, whether that's for your customer or bottom line, and if it aligns with your overall company vision. Counting ideas doesn't help any of these.

Benchmarking against the industry also helps to make sure that you’re leading in your sector – and will tell you if you’re stagnating.

Ms Haigh, Heineken UK

Innovation is resource-heavy, whether that's in terms of money or people – and for this reason, it's important to demonstrate its impact on the overall business strategy.

We do this by setting benchmarks and targets up front, both from a short and long-term perspective – not forgetting that most innovation will require an incubation period.

We have a long history of innovation that enables us to look at our back catalogue to set these benchmarks. For newer companies, I would recommend looking to the market and studying competitors or adjacent categories.

What are some common mistakes?

Mark Cowan, founder and business development director, Happen UK

Testing an idea to the point where the “computer says yes” – by which stage, the essence of the idea has been stripped of what you originally intended. The idea loses its sparkle, but passes the test.

Another one is, when launching an idea, not reacting quickly enough to the unforeseen frustrations that it might cause your consumers in those first few weeks after launch. That isn't always about changing the product – it might be about reframing the benefits or how you talk about it.

What are your top innovation tips?

Ms Miller-Cole, Bianca Miller London and The Be Group

Understand your customers and build relationships with them to ensure that you’re aware of what they like or dislike about your brand. Listen to their feedback.

Also, build a culture of innovation within the organisation at every level, to encourage new ideas and ownership of them.

Mr Cowan, Happen

First, start with the right innovation challenge (what business outcome are you looking for?); second, focus on insights (about the consumer) with which you can do something.

Third, develop ideas that you can exploit commercially (within your capability) – and finally, energise yourself and everyone involved along the way.

The web chat upon which this write-up is based was sponsored by Volvo. To read it in full, click here and scroll down to the comments section

 

This article was from The Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].

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