As Peter Drucker said, “Innovate or die”. (Your business, that is, not you.) But it’s surprising how many businesses don’t innovate. I think that’s because people often hear the word “innovation” and think of Rocket Lab, Tesla, All Birds or Apple. They think “innovation” means a world-first, technology driven, ground-breaking, expensive, world-changing…
Innovation is NOT always invention!
Don’t be put off incorporating innovation into your business because you think that innovation needs to be something no one else has ever thought of before. In fact, the dictionary definition of innovation is “the introduction of new things, ideas or ways of doing something”.
For example, computers and the internet were HUGE innovations. But, for you, launching a new website that allows you to sell your products online is also an innovation.
So for your business, innovation might sound more like “tweaking”, “streamlining” or “improving”. (Of course, it might also sound like “the world’s first hydrogen-powered goldfish bowl pump” but that’s entirely up to you and your area of expertise!)
So why innovate? Innovation gives you a new way of doing or thinking about something that has benefits. Those benefits might be for your team, your product or service, your customers, your bottom line, your productivity or process, or something else. Put simply, innovation is finding a way to do things better. And if you think improvement isn’t something you’re interested in, please be ready for a competitor to swoop in and swallow up all your customers. Resting on your laurels is downright dangerous.
Other benefits of innovation:
- It gives you something exciting to talk to your current and potential customers about
- It gives you a USP that clearly differentiates you from your competitors, giving customers a reason to choose you over the alternative offering
- It invigorates your team, who will be excited to work in a progressive company that values new ideas
- It helps you stand out to the best talent, who will always choose an innovative company trying different things and improving vs a “this is how we’ve always done it” business
- It keeps you interested in your business. There’s nothing like implementing something new that impacts positively on your business to give you a shot of motivation
THINK BIG — AND SMALL
Some companies are clearly innovative, just by the virtue of their business models. Uber, Airbnb, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Dyson, Google, Facebook… But don’t discount the impact innovation has had on companies who have just finetuned their offering to improve it.
Gaming company Nintendo was losing market share to Playstation and Xbox so they reinvented themselves, launching Pokemon Go – this incorporated VR, gamification and commerce. Suddenly you’d see everyone from students to grown adults walking around with their phone, looking for Pokemons, and bringing Nintendo back.
Heavy-machinery business Caterpillar launched an app — an industry first — which gave customers insights on their equipment’s health, usage and mileage. Customers loved it, and do did the retail partners who were alerted when they needed their equipment serviced, leading to more regular work. They gave customers a reason to choose a Cat over other offerings.
The emergence of digital cameras knocked Polaroid off their perch. No one wanted a clunky old camera when they could just use their small digital camera — or smartphone. But Polaroid rallied, they innovated and they rebranded, creating cameras in all kinds of cute pastel colours and Polaroid film with unique frames, to appeal to a younger audience.
Today there’s about 200 bed-in-a-box companies around the world but a decade ago you wouldn’t have dreamed of ordering a mattress online and having it delivered in a box. The very first company — BedInABox — launched in 2006, shipping mattresses direct to customers, and at a hefty discounted price because they didn’t have the overhead of stores to pay for. Mattresses were nothing new; the way they sold them was.
GoPro didn’t reinvent the wheel with their camera – the camera already existed, they just found a niche target of customers, tweaked the camera offering to be smaller and robust enough to handle adventure, and created an entirely new category for themselves.
On a smaller level, ever noticed how shops are flooded with gift-sets at Christmastime? Beauty products, fragrances, hot chocolate sets, kits for cleaning cars — the products aren’t new, but putting them together in some kind of cool packaging makes it simple for a customer to imagine it wrapped under the Christmas tree. Same products as always, just bundled together differently.
Think of razors. They have been around for years — so that’s nothing new — but they’ve gone from one blade to two, three, even four blades! And now some razors are heated, to soften the skin. Dollar Shave Club famously started a razor subscription service, delivering affordable blades by mail to customers on a monthly basis. Same product, new delivery. (The founder sold the company after five years for $1b to Unilever.)
AI is a major innovation and probably seems too hard for most companies, but using AI in even the simplest ways can really improve your customer experience. For example, McDonalds are trialling using AI in their drive-through – recognising a car’s number plate (with their permission) and making recommendations based on their order history, therefore speeding up the order process and cutting labour costs.
TIME TO GET INNOVATIVE
Every time your favourite food has a “new and improved” sticker on it, that’s innovation. When one of your suppliers shares new software for ordering, that’s innovation. Innovation is improving something in a way that has benefits for a business somewhere along the line. But innovation doesn’t happen by accident. It needs to be something that’s thought about, considered, shared, worked on, trialled, trialled again!
How can you implement an innovative mindset into your business? Start with our Business Changing Innovation workshop. Over a full day, Zac shares how to create a culture of creation in your business, how to encourage and embed innovative thinking, case studies and examples to inspire, a helpful list of 92 questions to use to promote innovative thinking in your team, and more!
See more about the Innovation workshop HERE.