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Business Innovation: The Power Within

Business innovation used to be the preserve of disruptive new players in the market and organizations, such as technology or chemical companies and automotive manufacturers, that considered R&D as part of their culture and organizational DNA. This is no longer the case. Business and customer demands change so frequently that innovation is constant, and the pace of change is relentless.

As an innovative organization, you have a market differentiator built into your products and solutions. If you don’t, chances are you are unwittingly differentiating yourself by price, that is, you have few or no unique product features and you have to discount to get sales.

So how do you keep up with the pace of the market or, better still, gain an advantage over your competition to put the pressure on them?

Focus on your customers to determine what they will need and want next. But how do you know what they need and want next?

Your workforce probably knows what customers want and need because they interact directly with them daily. Customers share their frustrations about the current version and its limitations and shortfalls versus the competition with your employees.

How do you tap into that knowledge and turn the frustrations of your frontline staff into your next competitive advantage to drive business innovation?

Include your best frontline staff as customer champions in the development of the next iteration of your product or service. Their insights may help you skip a couple of product iterations to leap ahead of the competition.

By employing agile design techniques and design thinking methodologies, you can test a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) on a sample of existing customers to gauge their reaction. You will get unfiltered feedback on what works and what doesn’t, and by adopting an MVP approach, you can keep the development time and costs down.

The MVP is meant to generate a reaction from a user or consumer; it isn’t a fully working version but is indicative of what the new solution could do. If your MVP achieves what the customer needs and gets you ahead of the competition, why do you need to spend more time and money developing it further? Go with it as it is, provided it meets the required safety standards and successfully represents the company image and reputation you want to portray.

If your MVP doesn’t generate the reaction you wanted, you will gain valuable feedback and not have invested time, effort, and money into a solution your customers don’t want.

Either outcome is valuable if you want to be an innovative solution provider that gives your customers what they want. By viewing these activities through an innovation lens, the old succeed-or-fail thinking doesn’t apply because you gain a valuable insight, whatever the result.

By moving quickly, you will have the advantage of shorter time to market and take the competition by surprise or save yourself from the high cost of wasted development funds, a lackluster product launch, poor sales, and the accompanying reputational damage.

The knowledge you require is already within your organization—reach out to your employees, gather their input, and apply the relevant information that results. Combining this with the methods mentioned above will help you drive business innovation toward the outcomes you need.

People used to say, “Knowledge is power.” In today’s fast-moving business environment, knowing something isn’t enough; you must do something with that knowledge. We believe the new version of that saying is, “The application of knowledge is powerful.”

So, ask yourself, “How can I apply the knowledge within my organization to be a more powerful and innovative force within my industry?”

About the Authors

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Ian Croft

I have always been fascinated by performance excellence. Obviously, we don’t call it that when we watch our favorite sports team/heroine/hero winning at their sport or while we watch an amazing artistic performance—we just enjoy the moment. For me, that moment is frequently followed by these questions: • How did they do that? • How hard have they worked individually or as a team to be that good? • What do they do that others don’t do that makes them successful? Being a Performance Consultant with GP Strategies allows me to explore those questions with clients on a daily basis. I was born and raised in the UK and moved to the US at the start of 2007. My career started with a UK-based bank where I specialized in commercial banking. It was the chance to help clients build successful businesses that attracted me to commercial banking over the other alternatives on offer. I spent several years working with clients on expansion strategies, restructuring their businesses, and working through the day-to-day challenges of running their businesses. I moved into commercial banking training during 1998 after completing an MBA. That’s when I found my true passion: helping people become the best they can be at what they do. I moved to a global bank during 2000 in a training role and became a Learning and Performance Consultant with responsibility for four of the bank’s businesses in 2003. In this role, I traveled internationally, delivering training and working with the four businesses to solve performance issues. My final role with the global bank was as Head of Commercial Banking for North America. After leaving banking, I became a Solution Architect within the Global Learning Solutions division of a major consultancy firm. This gave me the opportunity to work with diverse clients on learning and performance issues and indulge my passion for helping clients improve the performance of their businesses. I have been with GP Strategies since 2016 and truly love what I do here. Each day brings fresh challenges as I partner with clients to solve performance issues at individual, department, divisional, or organizational levels. I live in Delaware with my wife Elaine and our dog Charlie. I am an avid cyclist and can be found out on the roads of Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Maryland most weekends.

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