Companies are continuously seeking new ways to redefine and grow their businesses in the current era of innovation and market disruption.

Generally, innovation is the ability of an organisation to produce or successfully implement new products, services, and business models that aim to satisfy the ever-changing needs of a market. 

Innovation isn’t about inventing the wheel, but rather readapting and reinventing the wheel. That’s a common misconception that most people have. 

For many organisations, invention, ideas, and creativity are just not enough across services, business models, or processes. Innovation is critical to make a measurable impact while executing inventions and ideas. 

Essentially, innovation revolves around ideally making mistakes in the right direction.

Why is innovation important for an organisation?

Helps solve problems 

Innovative responses help to tackle specific issues in a business faster. If organisations approach innovation with an open mind, they can discover fresh possibilities to generate imaginative solutions that can dramatically improve their business output.

Contributes to company growth

The organisations that emphasise technical advancement keep on developing and remaining one stride in front of the competitors. 

Helps an organisation maintain relevance

A company’s surroundings are continually changing. And for businesses to stay essential and productive, they ultimately have to adjust to meet dynamic new factors. 

As such, innovation-driven organisations tend to battle off competition and remain relevant in an evolving environment.

Helps maintain uniqueness 

Continual development typically results in accomplishing something unique in one’s domain or industry. Innovation helps organisations separate themselves from the competition, especially in oversaturated industries or markets.

Increases productivity and profitability

Innovation helps boost productivity, which in turn, leads to better profitability. 

Larger profits are bound to happen because innovating ideas can lead to the development of new products and business models. 

Four types of innovation

1. Incremental innovation

Sometimes perceived as continuous innovation, it builds on existing knowledge of technology to continually improve existing products in minority markets while also targeting existing markets.

2. Radical innovation

Considered the opposite of incremental innovation, radical innovation is applied either on new technology, or combines new with existing technologies. The central aim is to target new markets and create new products.

Radical innovation helps to create short-term competitive advantages, as organisations can later apply incremental innovation to sustain any potential gains.

3. Architectural innovation

Architectural innovation helps move products/services into a new market, based on existing knowledge of their core technology.

4. Disruptive innovation

Disruptive innovation transforms an existing product with newer technologies or better performance in order to disrupt existing markets. 

solving problem
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Innovation process

There are multiple ways of formulating a “process” or framework for innovation. Breaking them down, the majority of them advocate almost the same way of working. 

  1. Exploration: This involves exploring, learning and defining a problem
  2. Ideation: This entails creating and evaluating ideas to solve the problem
  3. Test: This involves testing and developing the chosen solution
  4. Decision: This stage revolves around using learnings to decide your next steps.

The 6 ‘I’s® of Innovation 

6 ‘I’s® of Innovation
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The 6 ‘I’s® of Innovation are essentially a set of purpose and people-centred methodologies. They combine the principles of design thinking with unique innovation strengths assessment for team and individuals.

Fundamentally, the 6 ‘I’s® cover the “what”, “how”, and the “why” of innovation:

  • What: Revolves around creating and implementing new ideas.
  • How: Focuses on measuring, analysing and building individual, team and organisational innovation capacities.
  • Why: Aims to define the purpose of why are you trying to innovate, what you hope to achieve, and why it’s important?

So, what elements constitute the 6 ‘I’s® of Innovation?

Inspiration

Innovation isn’t merely luck as behind every innovation lies some form of inspiration. This can be from daily routines, or problems facing the world. It always starts with a question like: “How can I reduce my overall cost or increase profits?”, or “How can I make this more efficient?”.

Ideation

Inspiration typically leads to brainstorming. Ideation is essentially the creative process of generating and developing new ideas to convert inspiration into innovation. 

Initiation

Initiation is basically the process of starting implementation. This is probably one of the hardest stages as many times people do not have the courage to start. Furthermore, the fear of failure can delay any attempts to initiate an idea. 

Invention

Once initiation is executed, and the inspiration finally sees the light of the day, the invention might undergo multiple revisions before being made available to the public. 

Investment

This is the stage where the idea hopes to make money. However, not all inventions become profitable as some fail disastrously while others may pave way for newer inventions. 

Improvement

This stage involves an organisation constantly striving to upgrade and enhance their innovation. However, they may choose to completely abandon the invention and move on to something new. 

Growth Academy Asia’s Driving Innovation training programme is designed around the 6 ‘I’s® of Innovation model, which blends the principles of design thinking with organisational development.

Strategies for driving innovation

1. Create idea-sharing platforms

Bringing employees together to collaboratively share and generate ideas, whether in-person or virtually, with the right platform is important.

For instance, Dell IdeaStorm is a platform for Dell employees to submit, comment and vote on ideas from other people. On the other hand, HP organises brown bag lunches for employees to encourage them to discuss their unique ideas.

2. Encourage and reward innovative thinking

Sometimes there are employees within a company who have the best ideas but aren’t good at communicating them. Therefore, it’s imperative to help support and encourage idea sharing through rewards.

Furthermore, you can set up an innovation team made up of members from disparate areas in your business. Or a team of advocates who support the idea generation and innovation process to inspire change by supporting ideas and demanding radical changes.

innovative thinking
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3. Develop innovation-friendly policies

Companies like Atlassian adopt innovation-friendly policies that involve employees working on anything of their choosing, for at least one day a month. 

Google is also known to give 20% off time to engage on any project an employee desires.

So, consider creating formal policies like these on a project level. For instance, set up a cross-functional project team to tackle a key issue for 1-3 days off-site. 

4. Develop innovative skillsets and mindsets

Effective innovative thinking necessitates innovative toolsets, skill sets, and open mindsets. For more elaboration:

  • Toolsets:  An effective toolset can be vital to driving innovation in an organisation. For example, prototyping, mind-mapping, brainstorming, and excursion tools.
  • Skillsets: Innovation leadership demands facility, practice, and mastery of organisational processes. Essentially, a framework to allow innovation leaders to employ their toolsets, knowledge, and abilities to achieve their goals.
  • Mindsets: Mindset revolves around attitudes and resulting behaviours that allow the innovation tools and skills to be effective. It distinguishes leaders who demonstrate and facilitate creative thinking and innovation from those who basically shut it down. An innovation mindset triggers curiosity, the capability to defer judgement, tolerance for ambiguity, courage, attentiveness, and grasp of polarities.

5. Encourage open communication

When intelligent ideas are formulated, they need to be communicated and celebrated. 

Unfortunately, organisations often wait to see what happens before making any announcements to limit exposure to failure. However, the actual learning occurs in the development phase as it’s where the risk-taking happens.

Therefore, it’s important for leaders to set time in meetings for updates on any ongoing innovation and to share ideas. Such times are also convenient to celebrate positive failure, and learn from it

6. Experiment

Organisations should explore collaborative experimentation to enhance the chance of success at innovation. Collaborating with stakeholders brings new ideas, helps to correct problems, address market needs, and speed up the innovation process.

For instance, Google made prototypes of Gmail and Google Earth available for existing users, which helped with further developments. 

Overall, innovative ideas do not have to be implemented immediately, but rather one can conduct rapid-cycle experiments to test new ways of working.

7. Set an example

Leaders have tremendous influence in setting the tone for how risk-taking is tolerated, and how failure is managed in an organisation. So, remember to show that you value risk-taking, and duly reward it.

8. Be ready to accept failures

This might be the most vital rule to promote risk-taking and innovation. 

Be honest about what you are willing to accept, or else you’ll get widespread cynicism. For instance, if you want innovation but continually relay that failure should be avoided and punished, employees will never take a risk.

As a result, it’s imperative to allow room for failure and even congratulate some. Especially for thoughtful and well-planned projects that didn’t work. Encouraging risk-taking involves rewarding smarting failures just as one would reward any success.

Conclusion 

Businesses are developing and prevailing in today’s corporate atmosphere for a multitude of various reasons. Some for their unique products, others for their dynamic services, others still for less effortlessly characterised factors, like strong brand loyalty or promotion crusades. 

However, one of the most critical factors leading to their success is innovation. 

Innovation isn’t only about creating something new, but improving something that already exists. Furthermore, innovation focuses on making ideas happen and many times involves some failures until you achieve desirable outcomes.  

So, to keep innovating, remember to: 

  • Get out of  your comfort zone and attempt something new
  • Find new intuitive ways to serve others
  • Keep abreast and updated with the latest technology and trends
  • Keep updating skills by taking online courses and certifications
  • Produce more and consume less

Also, to keep driving innovation, it’s imperative to:

  • Define a key innovation challenge
  • Develop what’s needed for innovative thinking

Understand how innovation varies by leadership level