The Magic Mix – 3 Tips to Innovate & Grow your Business in 2018

You want your business to innovate. To stay relevant in today’s fast-paced business world. To grow.

I get it.

Clients think – ‘I have to do something different, anything different’. So they get excited about innovation and bring together their best and brightest to ideate and innovate. In fact, this approach is supported by the Agile methodology Scrum (an iterative, fast-paced process where the team typically ‘reports’ to the Customer rather than Management) and is viewed as a popular way to generate ideas and potential solutions.

This team emerges with plans and energy that would make Duracell bunnies run for cover. Management announces how super excited they are about this new business idea and really believe it will leapfrog you above the competition. And you know what? They are probably right.

Then comes the crunch. The business has to invest – time, money, resources, revenue sacrifice. And you may not see this new innovation hitting a revenue line for 2 years (if you are lucky).

Your business management team suddenly feel it’s too much for the business take on “right now” (code for: I only care about this years sales performance figures).

Or worse, they jump at a silver bullet without fully understanding or committing to what is needed for success.

You know you need to innovate. You know your competitors are going to smash your market share if you don’t come up with something new. Your customers will start looking elsewhere. Your shareholders are going to give you a verbal thrashing if you don’t deliver profit targets and innovation targets all whilst keeping the machine oiled and running.

Here are Three Tips to start developing your innovation muscle right now

1. Forget the Theory – Ask Questions

Google the term ‘how to innovate’ and the search engine hamster goes into overdrive. Everyone has an opinion (yes, including me!). What theory doesn’t account for is the people in your business, in your market and what makes your business, your business. So before looking to innovation, look to your business and answer 4 key questions:

  • Strategy: What are we doing and why are we doing it? By clearly articulating this, the type of growth your business needs (diversification, market, portfolio, margins and so on) will become more apparent and when you move to innovate, there will be a better alignment.
  • Marketing: Who are we doing it for and why? This is a crucial question as it sets out where you play and your likelihood of long-term market success. I typically focus Clients on Jobs to be Done by their customers, that the customer cares about, and is high-value for the business.
  • Sales: How do we communicate (internally & externally) and sell this value proposition(s)? One statement I often hear from salespeople is “when I present our sales material, it just doesn’t hit the spot so I just create my own” This sends shivers down Management and Marketing Execs spines but let’s face it, a fancy playbook means nothing if the salesperson doesn’t want to use it. We need to ask why, and hey, let’s go visit some customers while we’re at it!
  • Delivery: What end to end experience do we deliver to our customers? Here you are looking to see if what you sell is what you deliver and whether the customer is happy with the outcome. In the B2B space, particularly service or software-based companies, I often see cracks between sales, contracts, professional services, and customer service. This absolutely needs to be addressed and aligned with your overall strategy before you can proceed to innovate successfully.

These four pillars are what I call your Business Powerline which I speak about in a separate article. If any one of these pillars is weak or broken, then your business will find it much harder to implement innovation as it will be leaking resource on firefighting rather than focusing resource on growth.

2. Innovation is not invention

It is a way of doing things so that you find new ways to solve problems that are valuable to your customers. You don’t have to start with disruptive or empowering innovation. You don’t have to be the next Uber or AirBnB for your industry.

You simply have to start developing your innovation muscle steadily and deliberately to find new ways of creating and delivering the value propositions of today.

Remember – the problem doesn’t change, just how you solve it.

3. Think big but start small to build credibility and capability

Like cloud technology, innovation is a wishy-washy term at best. Because of this, people become either excited or scared depending on what they view innovation as.

To create a culture of innovation in your business, always look firstly to the exploit arm of innovation. What technology, automation, processes, suppliers, partners and so on can you leverage better and find new opportunities through?

Proving success on this level will enable your business to prepare and introduce innovation in a ‘safer’ way. They then become more comfortable moving up a level to explore and develop what is known as breakthrough innovation. Here things become a little more jazzed up as it is more focused on exploring completely new value propositions and business models. Breakthrough innovation could be for you as the business or for the target customer segments. Importantly, at this level, your business will require a more formal structure where innovation is viewed as a separate function and ambidextrous business organisation comes into play.

This article is a starting point for your thinking but I am a strong believer in the view that you just need to start. Your business could already be innovating but not getting the results you want. Your business could just be starting down the path of actually taking innovation from lip service status to a core part of your business model. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that you are open to creating new opportunities for your business in new ways and these 3 tips will help you do that.

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