Innovation can be elusive in business, but there are steps you can take to make it easier to attain….
Innovation has been a watchword recently. Earlier this week, all eyes were on Apple chief Tim Cook as he unveiled the new Apple Watch product. For weeks before the big reveal, though, industry speculators had been blogging their socks off about whether Tim could innovate in the same way as his predecessor Steve Jobs. The verdict after Tuesday’s announcement, was that yes – he could.
The British Chancellor is currently on the innovation bandwagon, too. Last week, George Osborne took off on a road trip around the UK as part of his Great British Brands Tour, aimed at shining the spotlight on some of the UK’s most innovative companies.
One of his first stops was at Weetabix. This breakfast cereal company started trading in the UK in the 1930s. Last week they announced the latest in a series of recent product innovations, launching a new brand of green tea breakfast bars to export to the Chinese market.
Of course, innovation isn’t always as easy as the likes of Tim Cook and Weetabix make it look. In fact, a recent white paper by CA Technologies revealed that 20 percent of business in the US, UK, Brazil, France, Germany, Singapore and Australia don’t have any formal innovation strategy in place.
So what are the keys to company innovation?
1. Listening to customer feedback
CA Technologies recently discovered that the biggest instigator of innovation in the world’s most innovative companies is actually customer feedback. There are all sorts of ways to get customer feedback these days. Ecommerce giants like Amazon and Notonthehighstreet now send emails to customers after each purchase they make asking for feedback. Shops like Marks & Spencer meanwhile incentivise shoppers to provide online feedback after their shop by entering everyone who fills in the feedback form into a prize draw. Sometimes, customer feedback can help you identify gaps in the market.
2. Make small changes
In a review of several books based on innovation, the Harvard Business Review concludes that baby steps rather than giant leaps are the key to success in innovation. In their analysis of the literature, they suggest that companies that focus on making small changes to current services are the ones that succeed in innovation in the long term. Tim Cook actually offered a great example of this when he unveiled the new size iPhones this week.
In their Eight Pillars of Innovation philosophy, Google explain how good company wide communication is a key part of their innovation strategy.
“Our employees know pretty much everything that’s going on and why decisions are made. Every quarter, we share the entire Board Letter with all 26,000 employees, and we present the same slides presented to the Board of Directors in a company-wide meeting,” explained Susan Wojcicki, senior vice president of advertising at Google.
“By sharing everything, you encourage the discussion, exchange and re-interpretation of ideas, which can lead to unexpected and innovative outcomes.”
4. Give people time
Google give their engineers something they call 20 Percent Time. It’s a full day a week when they are allowed to work on anything they want to. The search engine giant believes that a big proportion of their recent launches started as ideas during this creative time.
Proctor and Gamble swear by partnerships as the key to innovation. They believe at least half of their innovations come from partnering with another company of body in order to get fresh eyes on their products and services.
6. Two pizza teams
Amazon put their innovative success, in part, down to its two-pizza-team strategy. The online retail behemoth makes sure working teams are no bigger than the amount of people it would take to share two pizzas, so that voices aren’t drowned out and everyone gets heard.
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