Innovation is crucial for organizations that wish to leave a legacy in a fast-changing business environment. But, what exactly is innovation? In recent times, the word innovation has been misused, often describing products that have been improved or service progress that’s been made. However, making progress does not qualify as innovation; nor does improving efficiency qualify as innovation.
Before we discuss how to build innovation, we should first define it. Innovation is more than a new idea or approach; it is a new method of achieving something that creates measurable value for the end-user. Beyond improving the functions and capabilities of products and levels of efficiency, to be innovative means to make a significant difference and impact – to change the way something can be done; to create a new model for how something can be practiced.
By this definition, we can see just how overused ‘innovation’ is! True innovation is a lot rarer than we would believe from reading marketing collateral and product and company websites. Involving a drastically different approach to development and problem-solving, building innovation can only come from developing a compelling vision of change and taking massive action to achieve it. There are three components: ability, willingness, and opportunity; and all three are necessary to fully innovate.
In this sense, I think every organization can benefit from external support and expertise. If the objective is to build a new business model that provides an alternative to how things have traditionally functioned, it will be a lot more difficult to achieve in a traditional way. Even in cases where internal teams are multi-skilled and have great imagination, they can still benefit from the input of external experts to keep ideas fresh, relevant, and provide joint solutions. This is when it becomes necessary to ‘think outside the box’ (yet another overused phrase) … External teams hired for their skills and insight bring so much more than simply experience and expertise, they also bring their methods of operating and this fosters an adaptive mindset. The collaboration of often quite different companies with different work styles and cultures can give a real edge to the end-product.
However, positive collaboration requires a huge amount of confidence within the host organization. Departments and management cannot feel threatened or let ego impede their decisions in any way. This is the case in a lot of companies where key employees don’t always see the value of external support or the need for it. Unfortunately, this limiting view impedes their progress, and often means that innovation is more of a phrase than a reality. To innovate is to create a unique business model that provides an alternative to how things have always functioned, therefore it makes sense that to achieve this, we must alter how things have always functioned. Collaboration is key.