Technologies have come and faded away, replaced by other, better tech. Fashion is an ever-revolving cycle of outdated today, in vogue tomorrow. Ideas considered mind-boggling 10 years ago are obsolete today, all because of innovation.
The term innovation has been defined in different ways by different people. Some definitions are:
- Innovation is turning an idea into a solution that adds value from a customer’s perspective.
- Innovation is the application of ideas that are novel and useful.
- Innovation is staying relevant.
Simply put, innovation is all about seeing something differently. When you are able to see something in a new light or in a ‘different’ way, you can do something different, something better than what was done before.
Now, innovation does not mean reinventing the wheel. Practically everything that can be discovered has been discovered. Some countries, some organizations, are just ahead of others because they started innovating first; others will catch up simply by copying what they have already done. So, to be innovative doesn’t mean that you should come up with a brand new, never-been-heard-before concept; it simply means seeing and doing something in a way YOU haven’t done before.
The world has changed in so many ways, making a lot of things available wit the touch of a button or screen. Ignorance is no longer a valid excuse for remaining in a rut. The way you think needs to change if you want to grow and succeed in life.
So, what ways can you become innovative in your organization?
- Ask the question ‘What if?’ – Challenge the way things are done in your organization. Whether you are an employer or an employee, look at a product or a service or a process and ask ‘what if this was done another way?’
- Don’t reinvent the wheel – Some foundational things have been done already, there’s no need to do them all over again. One of the best ways to do something differently is to look at how it’s already being done and how best to apply it to a different scenario. Henry Ford’s novel idea of creating assembly lines in his car factory was copied from the production line in a meatpacking factory.
- Ask your customers – This is another effective way of innovating your organization. Using surveys, calls, or one-on-one interaction, ask your customers how they think you are doing, and what you should do to be better. Remember your products and services are for them and not you.
- Observe intelligently – Watch your customers, your competition, and the market. What you learn will help you see what you are doing from another perspective and how to do things better.
- Use complaints to your advantage – Any complaint you get from a customer or colleague gives you an invaluable source for innovation because it represents things you can do better.
- Involve outsiders – Don’t try and think of everything yourself. Involve other people. Run contests by offering members of the public prizes for new ideas. Outsource some of your development work to universities. Encourage developers to bring their ideas to you. Create avenues to let other help you learn how to do things better
- Use social media – See what is trending on social media. Ask questions and see the responses that come up.
- Review the past – Yes, it is said that you should leave the past in the past, but sometimes there are innovative nuggets there that are waiting to be used. Just as retro and vintage fashion seem to keep coming back in style, there could be methods that were used in your industry in the past that you can upgrade and use in your organization today.
Innovation isn’t something you should take lightly, you need to constantly seek to improve – yourself, your business, your environment – to remain relevant.