Innovation is more than a business buzzword that is currently in vogue; it is a hugely valuable concept that has actually been around for many years. However, there is a reason why innovation has seemed to become the ‘it’ concept in business recently. That reason is technology, more specifically, the increasingly rapid evolution of technology. Technology has and continues to transform everything, how people live, and how businesses operate. To maintain relevance and stay competitive in this ever-changing marketplace, businesses must embrace innovation. It is no longer a concept that can be confined to start-ups and silicon valley. All businesses need to begin embracing innovation in all of their processes. This guide is here to help you learn more about why innovation is so important and how to encourage innovation in your business.
Why is Innovation So Valuable?
Before outlining the best ways to improve innovation in your business, it is first necessary to explain why innovation is so valuable. The word innovation refers to a process, the aim of which is to discover new products, processes, approaches, or ideas. Innovation can happen in a group context, meaning teams can work together to innovate, or it can occur individually. There is no standard formula for innovation; it will likely look different and have a variety of different outcomes depending on the context. There is no limitation to the impact of innovation; it can be used in the context of individual products, internal operations, or an entire business model.
Now that you understand a little more about what innovation is, it is time to outline the reasons why the concept is so important for today’s businesses. The list below outlines just a few reasons why innovation is such a vital practice for businesses.
Innovation Promotes Growth
Regardless of industry, business growth will be the main aim of pretty much any business owner. Without innovation, stimulating business growth can be slow, unreliable, and a pretty painstaking endeavour. By embracing innovation, businesses are taking the risks they need to promote sizeable and sustainable growth.
Innovation Helps You Stand Out
Innovation is all about doing something differently, about embracing new approaches and taking risks. This mindset helps you to differentiate yourself from your competition. Maybe you are developing your products differently, running your operations more effectively, or taking a new approach to marketing. However innovation is affecting your business, it will likely help you stand out in a crowded marketplace.
Innovation Keeps You Relevant
With technology evolving so quickly, the world of business is changing more rapidly than ever before. Companies that do not embrace innovation risk becoming obsolete or irrelevant.
Now that you understand a little more about why embracing innovation is so vital, it is time to focus on how you can encourage innovation in your business. The list below outlines some of the most successful methods for increasing innovation in your business.
1. Promote Free Thinking
One of the most effective ways of encouraging innovation in your business is to create a working culture that promotes free thinking. You could take inspiration from William McKnight’s ‘Fifteen Percent Time’ rule. This is a policy that allows employees to spend fifteen percent of their time at work daydreaming and experimenting with ideas. The ideas that they focus on during this time do not necessarily have to have any direct relation to the work they would otherwise be doing.
2. Encourage Research
Alongside promoting free-thinking, you should also encourage your employees to complete research. This research does not have to have a direct relation to their other work, although it needs to be somewhat relevant. Within reason, you should encourage your employees to follow their instincts and complete research based on their own interests. Even if this does not directly lead to innovation, it can only help your employees become more informed and interested individuals.
3. Reward Innovation, Even if it Fails
You should not only allow or encourage your employees to research and experiment but reinforce this mindset by rewarding innovation. Rewarding innovative habits is the very best way to promote a culture that values innovation. Creativity cannot flourish in an environment that is too authoritative; enable your employees to grow in confidence by rewarding experimentation.
4. Partner with Forward-Thinking Companies
One of the most famous examples of successful innovation in business is the partnership that developed between Apple and Microsoft. In the 1990s, Apple was on the verge of bankruptcy. To protect itself against what seemed like an impending failure, Apple chose to do something revolutionary; they partnered with their biggest rival at the time, Microsoft. It was this innovative decision that is believed to have safeguarded Apple and promoted its culture of innovation and risk-taking creative thinking.
When you are looking to encourage innovation in your company, you need to make the right partnerships. Making the right partnerships does not only mean finding the right suppliers at the right price but forming relationships with companies that also value innovation. As one polymer company describes, partnering with businesses that value innovation enables you to better expand and further your own creativity. As such, partnerships enable more freedom in operations as both companies are working towards the same goal, innovation.
5. Lead by Example
No matter how much you encourage your employees or make the right partnerships if you are not embodying the value of innovation, then your progress is bound to be limited. You should try to encourage innovation in your business by leading by example. You need to embrace the values vital to innovation: passion, positivity, creativity, vision, and the willingness to change and adapt.
You should work on your management style to ensure that you are always sending the right message to your employees. It is important that you take the time to properly understand the importance of innovation so you can embrace the practice with both hands. Fear of change and the unknown is the biggest hindrance to innovation. Be safe in the knowledge that innovation does not always lead to instant results but will pay off in the end.