“The US economy is likely to enter recession in the third quarter and remain there until the first quarter of 2024.” Reuters reported citing the Conference Board.
Learning from history, we know that businesses may now start reducing hiring, resorting to layoffs, curtailing R&D, and stopping new investments.
Then there will be the other set of companies that will leverage their innovation strategy and intrapreneurship culture to outperform the others.
The truth is that there’s never a good time to invest, take risks, and stray away from the herd. Today it is a recession, and yesterday, it was a pandemic.
So, let’s ensure you know how to keep your business booming, come what may.
Building an innovation strategy
Contrary to popular belief, we believe every company has an innovation strategy but at different maturity levels.
And some or maybe all of them might be in desperate need of upgrading their strategy, but it doesn’t mean they’re clueless.
However, we do think that companies do not know how to build an innovation strategy that does justice to their business.
So let’s start from the beginning.
Understand what is an innovation strategy
An innovation strategy is a detailed, structured plan of a company’s efforts to come up with new technologies, products, solutions, and processes for corporate sustainability. An innovation plan typically includes the company’s objectives, customer pain points, a detailed plan for new ideas and inventions, and so on. It dictates how a company will curate novel solutions and work on having breakthroughs.
Take in the customer perspective
Before working on your innovation target, identify unmet customer needs, desires, and expectations. You can start by using customer and social forums to understand the latest conversation going around your industry among your prospects. Or, you can take a direct approach by rolling out surveys and scheduling interviews.
When you start by listening to your potential leads, you’ll be able to empathize with them and work on creating solutions, features, and new functionalities that target their pain points.
Carefully monitor the market
Always know your competition. It enables you to find out where you stand and what you need to do for your innovation positioning.
- The idea management system they are using to meet their innovation targets. Pick a better system for your team.
- Their strengths and weaknesses.
- The kind of customer experience and support they offer.
- The innovation management system they have deployed lays a solid foundation for intellectual property management. Build a better version for your company.
- Whether they are soaring in the volatile market or plunging.
After you have answers to these basic questions, start analyzing your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
Decide on your desired outcomes
Now that you are clear on your customer segments and the market landscape, your next step is to set clear business objectives. You must decide what you want to offer your customers and how you plan to differentiate your company from the competition.
You can do that by:
- Identifying your target audience out of the various customer segments.
- Understanding what you can do better than your competitors. Maybe you can offer better customer service or excellent user experience. It can also be a new feature that your prospects are pining for, but the competitors haven’t been able to provide them yet.
- Introducing an innovation strategy meant to justify your business needs and aspirations as well as promote an intrapreneurship culture within your organization.
Choose an innovation process
Routine innovation process
Often referred to as reactive innovation, you can pick this strategy to manage innovation if you want to serve your existing customers by listening to their demands and building on them. Companies with the routine innovation process turn to their customers for review, bug reports, and new requirements and use their existing capabilities to implement their specifications.
Disruptive innovation process
Such companies deploy active processes to create and roll out new technologies, solutions, processes, and business models in their existing industry. Companies with disruptive innovation processes strongly facilitate intrapreneurial activities internally.
Radical innovation process
It is a proactive innovation process that focuses on using their in-house talent and resources to bring breakthroughs that create a new market in their industry. They are well-prepared to respond to any disruptive innovation coming their way and even force their competitors to be active.
Architectural innovation process
Businesses that follow architectural innovation processes tend to upgrade their existing products, solutions, services, or technologies significantly. It enables them to have a decent innovation positioning in their industry.
Ensure your executive team approves and engages
Involve your key stakeholders intrinsically. It is impossible to implement an innovation strategy without taking a top-to-bottom approach. If you include your employees in a plan that the top management doesn’t embrace themselves, the plan wouldn’t work.
Remember, employees respond to reliable and decisive leadership.
You must ensure you have an approved budget and the right tools to implement ideas and inventions that will come your way once you introduce an innovation strategy. Otherwise, you’ll end up in a dud.
Loop in your workforce
Let’s see, you now have:
- An understanding of your audience.
- An analysis report of your competitors.
- Your business objective.
- An innovation strategy.
- Support from the top management.
- A budget to put the plan into action.
So, your next step is to schedule an innovation program meeting to bring your workforce on board. This program should aim at sowing the seeds of innovation culture in your organization or explaining how you plan to upgrade your existing culture.
You must grab the attention of your team members by communicating the strategy and your desired outcomes.
We strongly recommend you introduce a central and automated idea management system that requires minimal supervision and does not limit your employees. All you need to do is encourage adding as many solutions and ideas as possible without any limitations.
Your existing workforce, if given the opportunity, will help you in:
- Generating revenue through new products, services, and processes.
- Gaining a competitive edge by identifying emerging market trends.
- Creating a blue ocean strategy.
- Saving costs by using your workforce to come up with ways to streamline processes.
- Establishing your branding.
- Moving into new market segments.
- Satisfying your end customers.
- Building a sustainable innovation culture.
- Breaking down entrenched silos.
- Improving operational efficiency.
Don’t overthink and rationalize. Instead, try, fail, and try again until you succeed.
When you give place to strategic innovations at your workplace, you will be surprised by how many ideas and inventions you’ll invite.
This means you’ll need to know which idea needs immediate attention and which idea you can put on the back burner. It also means you must understand the need to manage your intellectual property. Otherwise, you’ll be at square one.
Know that ideas and innovation are interdependent and require management to bring profits and breakthroughs. Simply put, prioritize well.
Allocate resources for implementation
Firstly, understand that you will receive small ideas and ideas with huge potential. But you must show respect to both types. You should not and cannot ignore or reject ideas that you perceive unimportant.
When you are building an innovation culture, that means you have to pave the way for one and all. You need to show through your actions that you welcome ideas and suggestions.
It means that you must ensure that when an employee submits an idea to get a whiteboard in the common work area gets equal attention and appreciation as an employee who comes up with an idea to improve your product’s user interface significantly.
So, you’ll have to allocate resources for both small and big ideas if they are relevant and improve your productivity.
Create a prototype and test
Your innovation strategy must include an action plan to create a minimum viable product that can be used to penetrate the market.
After you have a novel idea or an invention and the resources to implement it, ensure you have a roadmap to create the prototype.
Creating a prototype and using it to test the waters helps us create use cases accordingly. These use cases, in turn, help us create new features and functionalities to improve the product.
Measure and evaluate your innovation strategy
Set key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the success of your innovation strategy and whether you need to upgrade and improvise it accordingly.
These performance indicators can be:
- The number of ideas shared by employees in a month led to increased productivity and improved processes.
- The number of patent applications filed successfully.
- The increased percentage of product sales.
- The number of lead conversions.
Do not forget to evaluate whether every person in your organization is on the same page. And, even if anyone at any time asks them about your business innovation strategy, their answer turns out to be the same.
We must reiterate that there is never a perfect time to invest in new strategies or tools, but we must do it anyway. Any business that fails to leverage underlying potential and innovation in today’s world ends up as a failure story in the near future.
You need to ensure you are not one of them.
Take your pick to get started here: InspireIP