However, it seems that businesses continue to struggle to implement innovation. It seems that businesses know that they have to implement innovation as a core element of their growth, but that implementing innovation itself is an innovation in its own right.
Innovation, by its very nature, has to be innovative. This means it is constantly changing. Tactics that worked in the 80s and 90s don’t work anymore now. Believing that it is simply ‘business as usual’ also doesn’t work. The world is changing and for a business to remain competitive, they must be able to change with it. There are a number of fundamental principles that underpin this, each of which requires extensive study. However, the first principle is the most important, so let’s focus on that one.
The First Principle of Business Innovation
The first and most important principle is that the approach a business takes to innovation is fully comprehensive. It has to be found across all levels of the organization. Did you know, for instance, that the bubble jet printing technology was discovered by accident, when a worker brought an ink-filled syringe too close to a source of heat? This shows that innovation can – and should – happen anywhere and at any time.
Almost all of the world’s greatest innovations were discovered accidentally. Viagra, for instance, was an experiment into heart drugs gone wrong. NutraSweet was supposed to be an ulcer treatment. The list is truly endless.
Research and development is one of the largest costs for any organization, yet the big discoveries tend to happen purely accidentally. By being aware of this possibility is what drives innovation. Another thing to be aware of is that innovation cannot be forced. You may remember the popularity of Gillette Sensor, for instance. Trying to ride on their own popularity, they tried to innovate their own product and developed the Mach3. This proved to be so unpopular that the company was targeted for a hostile takeover! Innovation isn’t about adding a few little extras to an existing product and calling it something new. It is about actually creating something completely new.
Businesses that are getting it right are those companies that place innovation at the same level of other elements of their business, such as advertising, human resources, operations, purchasing, and so on. They integrate innovation in every department of the organization and they enable every individual, from the night time cleaner to the CFO, to put forward ideas and for these to be taken seriously. This, in turn, is only achieve if leaders and managers take the lead on this and ensure that it becomes part of the company’s overall culture.
Innovation management is not one thing that can be quantified and measured. It is a process of ideas, of tests, of accidents. It is unfortunate, therefore, that it is such a vague term, particularly when you consider that it can quite literally mean the success or failure of an organization.