How to maintain Continuous Innovation in businesses?

(Copyright of Paul Foreman )
(Copyright of Paul Foreman )

‘Innovation management is fundamental to business’ ‘The most successful businesses are innovative’ – Statements that are thrown around on articles with no clear definition of the meaning, and what does that create? A generation of businesses owners who use the phrase ‘We are innovative’ in the same way teenage girls say ‘We wear make-up as it makes us feel better’, a false representation to raise reputation and ego. In this post I want to discuss what real innovation looks like, through a theoretical underpinning and practical examples through experiences with innovative companies. I also want to discuss the business life cycle and how a business can continue to innovate when the sun seems like its setting.

An ‘Innovative Idea’ is not  a ‘new idea’ - Innovation isn’t creating something from scratch – it is using existing resources to improve upon a product or process (Kanter, 1983)  - be that by reducing a cost or thinking of a new product. When I say resources, I do not mean spending more money, Innovation doesn’t have to be expensive. Their are the two interlinked resources which are fundamental for innovation.

Firstly you take the knowledge and experience of you and your team members and then you apply creativity… ‘If only it were that simple’ ‘I am not a creative person’.

It is that simple, when you are next in the board room to discuss what to do next – the first thing to look at is what you already have, because no business is perfect – you just need to look at it in different eyes. Pick a specific process, or product, or service and openly ask your staff how can this be improved. – and don’t stop there, open innovation is a growing trend and more companies are openly asking customers what changes they would like to see. Innovation is driven by change, not by invention.

Innovation is continuous not sudden 

(Morris and Kuratko,2002) expanded on the original theory of innovation by stating that Innovation is a ‘continuum of possibilities ‘ – meaning that innovation creates a frequent route to further innovation. To avoid the ‘Grow or Go’ situation I refer too a business should be constantly innovating and improving its processes – constantly acting different. If you get to the point where you are desperately scraping the barrel for a quick innovative thought than you are most-likely too late, because other firms have already adapted the continuous innovation approach. Lets take Google for an example who deployed a 20% of time for innovation scheme to their engineers. – Now admittedly the programme was shut down due

to a lack of focus of employees – but it also created some wonderful applications such as Gmail, G-drive etc. Their constant innovation approach has made them the biggest search engine in the world.

Furthermore – who doesn’t want to work for google? I know I do!

In conclusion, When thinking about innovation within your company, don’t overcomplicate the thought process. A simple adaption to a process or change in the way you operate could lead to a continuous chain of innovation- Just leave yourself open to spot opportunities!






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