How Your Business Can Be More Innovative
Hands up if innovative is one of your companies brand values?
I’m sure it’s one of the most commonly used attributes of all brand values. It’s one thing to have it written down somewhere in an employee handbook but another to truly create a business culture that makes this happen day in day out.
Why bother being innovative?
It takes a lot of effort and resource to develop a culture around innovation so is it worth it?
The short answer is yes. If you want to remain competitive, you simple have to innovate. Even if you are in a market where your competitors don’t seem to be doing much, disruptive brands in different markets are changing your customers’ expectations. If you want to keep your customers happy, and gain competitive advantage you need to keep moving.
How to develop an innovative culture
As a business we offer conversion rate optimisation services which in basic terms means we come up with new ideas everyday aimed at making our client’s websites generate better results. Over the years we’ve worked on how we go about generating ideas. Here are a few of the crucial ingredients you’ll need, to encourage innovation within your business. The suggestions below are focused on creating ideas for you customers but could just as well be applied to innovating your internal processes etc. within your business itself.
1. Understand your customers
To be innovative you need to understand first how things work and what your customer needs/problems you solve are.
- Gather data from a range of sources: To be well informed it’s best to gather research from a range of sources — then if the same points arising from different sources you have stronger evidence of this problem existing. Data sources could be from analytics, sales data, loyalty schemes, call centres, or moderated user research.
2. Stimulate Creativity
You need to let staff know and encourage them that innovation is part of their role within the company. This ideally needs to come from the very top. Here are some ways to make that happen:
- Allow your staff to have time built into their week which they can use as they wish, whether for reading or learning to help open them up to new ideas.
- Give your staff the autonomy to choose a location to work from when they are coming up with new ideas. Whether that’s a coffee shop or local park. Sitting behind the same desk every day doesn’t always lend itself to coming up with new ideas.
- Play. There are a range of structured workshops/tasks you can run to help your team get limbered up and thinking in the right ways. One of the ways we do this is by running collaborative sketching workshops with our team and clients together. We present our consumer research and share problems we’ve identified. Each member then individually sketches a revised design to solve the problem. There’s also a great resource here with further ideas — http://toolbox.hyperisland.com/
- Encourage and reward those who are involved in generating ideas. One way to do this is to communicate the ideas people have generated and the results/impact their ideas have had. We’ve also had clients who have added an element of competition to the whole proceedings but having leader boards for staff who generate the best ideas.
3. Remove the fear of being wrong
- We don’t like to be wrong and many people will state that no idea is a bad idea but we know that’s not true. Calling people out in workshops as having ideas will do nothing more than make that person clam up. While you are generating ideas take a note of all ideas. What crucial is to the priorities or rate the ideas generated to ensure you go forward with ideas that are most backed up with data/research and meet the goals of what you want to achieve.
- Trying new things always comes with risk but there is a way to mitigate some of that risk by running your new idea as an experiment. We use A/B testing tools to test ideas for our clients. We can test new services, pricing changes, proposition changes, branding changes etc. This allows you to build an idea quickly to get your idea out there and in front of your customers to see if it’s going to work. If the idea doesn’t have the results you wanted, it’s easy to stop the test and revert back to what you had previously. Testing allows you to not only test ideas with agility and speed, it allows you to mitigate the risk of making changes without knowing their impact. There’s no better way to encourage innovation by sharing the ideas your staff have come up with that have led to a direct financial impact or customer satisfaction impact on the business.
It’s by no means an easy feat to change a company culture and it very much needs buy-in from the senior management team but if done with a solid process, the right inputs and then tested, innovative ideas can really grow businesses far beyond other strategic methods.
If you’d like to read more on what’s stopping senior management teams for integrating this into their businesses check out our book on the topic, due to be available via Amazon from January 2016 entitle “The Growth Strategy That's Being Ignored: A story of Untapped Potential”.