Your business needs to innovate to stay successful
Every step to improve the survival outlook of a group is the result of innovation. That’s why harnessing change is so important for success in business.
Take the adaptation of species of living organisms to changing conditions. It’s right there in the name. Adaptation means changing as the environment changes. For a species to adapt, it has to be able to develop, test, and evaluate cellular, genomic, and symbiotic changes for their impact on its survival.
For companies, innovation is essential if they want to:
- increase productivity
- reduce costs
- differentiate themselves from the competition
- change marketing strategies
- establish new partnerships
- stay relevant
Just like all living things, almost all businesses need the ability to recognize changes in conditions, develop new ideas, and test them in the marketplace. Also just like living organisms, businesses have many opportunities to act upon new ideas and new ways of doing things.
A key example of adaptation in the online world is a new anti-spam management tool, Jellyfish. Namecheap staff created this tool, and it evolved into top-notch spam protection, all thanks to customer feedback and a cup of coffee.
What are the different parts of a company that can be the focus of innovation?
Many successful companies apply the innovation mindset to numerous areas outside of new product development:
- Improving existing products: although less heralded than coming up with the shiny new thing, refreshing and tweaking an existing line-up is just as crucial to ensuring brand image and bottom line.
- Improving processes: there are worlds of possibilities when it comes to shaking up internal processes, whether it’s making the same things, but faster and more dependably, or helping workers feel more motivated.
- Changing the supply chain: to improve costs and ensure quality, innovation in the supply chain can mean seeking out suppliers in entirely new areas, but it can also mean redrawing partnerships with existing vendors to forge more shared interest.
- Adopting new technology: new technology sits behind most innovative business solutions. Having a good working formula for finding and deploying new software, hardware, or technological services is the key to keeping teams happy. This becomes even more salient in the age of rapidly advancing artificial intelligence (AI).
- Changing your business model: most businesses consider pricing tweaks as one of the most important business-innovation models, but innovative business strategies may include everything from pursuing different markets or new industries to acquiring atypical sources of financing.
Is innovation really indispensable?
Innovation: isn’t that hard and risky? Can’t a company just play it safe and be fine?
It’s true. Innovation means allocating time and resources to activities whose outcome is uncertain. It means steering people towards reevaluating their actions and changing the familiar ways, which is not a trivial undertaking.
Most companies do not have much experience dealing with a lot of change or with fierce competition. If your business was founded less than a century ago, then you are the lucky recipient of opportunities unparalleled in history. But these opportunities come at the cost of having to maintain a constant clip of innovation in order to stay relevant.
What exactly does a ‘constant clip of innovation’ look like day-to-day?
Today’s most successful young companies don’t treat innovation as a separate activity but have it baked into their very fabric. It’s when a company’s CEO feels the need to start ordering their workers to innovate that you know they are in trouble.
Of course, innovation can happen in scheduled bursts sometimes, like hackathons or product-review weeks. But the teams that will be in the best position to do excellent work in these bursts have already adopted an innovation-fostering culture.
A company will be better able to harness the power of innovation if that mindset infuses everything that happens at the company. The following mechanisms go a long way towards making innovation as natural a state as possible:
- Responsibility up and down the hierarchy: when workers possess a degree of autonomy over their jobs, and when everybody feels a personal connection to the company’s prosperity, then they will feel encouraged to try out their ideas for how to do their job better.
- Openness among individuals and among teams: in a culture where companies encourage people to communicate honestly and give teams tools and platforms to exchange knowledge among themselves, this opens up brainstorming and sharing of different perspectives. Open communication can, in turn, illuminate solutions that wouldn’t have occurred to any single individual.
- Acceptance of the natural role of failure: every change is bound up in risks, and acknowledging this fact means companies can watch out for failure, detect it early, and mitigate its impact. Individuals will be more creative and try more things if the consequences of failure are professionally enriching rather than devastating.
- Observing the world: Success as a company includes assessing your workforce’s ongoing happiness and productivity, finding new ways of gathering customer feedback, and analyzing trends in your industry. Companies with an accurate picture of their market and of their position will be better equipped to react as soon as conditions start changing.
- Paying attention to creativity when hiring and rewarding creative actions: traditional signposts of academic and career success might not be enough to demonstrate an applicant’s imagination and willingness to bring creativity to the table. And a company should make itself attractive to creatives by showing that it actively supports and rewards innovative ideas.
Great examples of business innovations
The Anheuser-Busch company fosters a culture where curiosity about the world and an openness to experimentation lead to fast iterative development and testing without the stigma of failure. When their CEO noticed people pouring beer over ice in Asia, he called his VP of Innovation. Within two days the company was holding impromptu taste tests during their popular brewery tours. Based on the feedback, they eventually pivoted to a path that led them to develop the most popular new tequila and lime-flavored malt beverage of all time.
The ride-hailing company Grab in Singapore took a simple observation about the world and turned it into a winning idea: when you are traveling or when you are out on the town, there are often specific things you need, but it is a drag to make an extra stop at a convenience store. Why not allow yourself to grab a razor or a charger at the same time as you grab a ride? With the Grab&Go mobile convenience stores aboard their cars, drivers are happy too: they can earn 150 dollars more a month.
The online consumer-friendly wholesaler Boxed wanted to go after the Holy Grail of shopping user interfaces: the ‘running-out-soon’ feature that alerts users when they need to restock and allows them to purchase what they need very easily. They concocted a pleasant swipe interface and worked very hard on getting the warnings just right. In addition to using AI to mine their users’ past behavior for patterns, they ask everybody a few lifestyle questions to refine their guesses of every individual user’s preferences.
Innovate or get left behind
Ultimately, every successful innovation contributes to a company’s profitability and long-term viability. A company that stops innovating will stand still. However, the world will keep moving. The company that stops innovating will be left behind. From the creative spark over a cup of coffee in a break room, great products can be born, like Namecheap’s brand-new Jellyfish. Like inspiring a brilliant team to get clever with the creation of an anti-spam tool such as Namecheap’s Jellyfish, creativity can lead to new and wondrous inventions.
If innovation can be seen as the core activity of any company, then it can also be given the organizational support that ensures that everybody at the company can engage with it in joyous and fulfilling ways. The small beginnings of a creative spark lead all the way through the hard work of making the final product. It pays to keep innovating. Following the steps throughout the process can be a rewarding practice to bring your crazy ideas from the drawing board to fruition.
Great article – shares both the importance (theory) of innovation and practical examples for stimulus.