Innovation is the secret of company success. As long as they are delivering innovative products, they are competitive, never mind the Asian competition. But: Being innovative means more today than it did some years ago. Nowadays, if you think in terms of innovation, you often end up with an entirely new business model in an entirely new company.
If customers require significant changes to a product, every process, function or system in the company has to become part of the innovation. In short: there is no innovation without change.
Looking at many projects that companies commit themselves to, there is always clarity about the objectives but seldom do they know about the way to go forward.
If companies see the big picture and include the entire company, there is a lot more to be achieved by innovation than just a new product:
1. A shared vision has to be developed
It is essential that not only management has a vision on how the company could thrive. This vision must be shared by the entire team, be small or big. This means that at first everyone in the company has to start thinking about the purpose of what he or she is doing towards the goals of the company and what the company is doing towards the goals of the economy and society. The vision has to be made explicit for all employees on all levels. It will help make the desired result – a clear and appropriate vision – happen.
2. A nurturing innovation culture sets the base for results
Even under competitive pressure a company has to be able to come up with results. Tangible results in innovation are last but not least the products that become successes in their respective market segments. No way to achieve great results in innovation without a strong culture, let alone none at all.
Of course, innovative cultures cannot escape the impact of competition but it can make the most of the situation. Empowered employees and managers, openness to change, no fear to speak up and time to think instead of working late hours without having the time to reflect on customers’ future requirements and the possibilities that are within range due to the core competences of the company.
3. Innovation management is the back bone of an innovative company
There is no such thing as a successful company without leadership, and it is understood there is also no such thing as innovation without the strong “guide rails” of inspired leaders and consistent managers.
Teams have to be in place representing all the capabilities in the company and training available in order to develop the skills needed to be creative and work-efficiently.
In addition to just using classical management tools managers have to develop their so called soft skills. People who are supposed to get difficult tasks done, have to be motivated not just incentivized.
4. Develop and execute a strategy to make the vision come reality
Based on an inspiring vision, an open and creative culture and effective leadership and management, the right strategy will help reach the goals and set out to new horizons.
This is not about a long ingrained process but about new ways to do the old chores.
5. Accept and integrate all new approaches into a new business model
Change the right processes and you have a new business model, you are doing business differently from what has become commonplace among your competitors. This may lead to competitive advantage by itself because it makes buying easier for customers or it speeds up cash-flow or it generally reduces operating costs in the company.
Watching out for the five success factors while pursuing to comply with all the trends that make customer wishes change for good and change again and again, will be key in making innovation an integral part of companies in times of change.
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