Innovation is at the center of the success and sustainability of every business. The pervading waves of significant changes throughout the world are creating new market forces. In the face of these fast and ever-increasing changes, the only way individual businesses and companies can survive and prosper is to innovate.
This way, innovation gives us abundance of hope for the future. The way the world is going and at the pace innovation is expanding, the industrial, economic, and social growth humanity will experience in the next 20 years may surpass that recorded in the last 500 years before it.
What do we mean by innovation? Several persons have attempted either a definition or an explanation. Peter Drucker, the management guru, defined it as “the effort to create purposeful, focused change in an enterprise’s economic or social potential.”
Nick Skillcorn, the Chief Editor of Ideatovalue.com and Founder/CEO of Improvides Innovation Consulting, spoke to 15 of the world’s leading innovation experts. He compares, analyzes, and synthesizes their definitions of innovation. He comes up with this conclusion, what he calls the ultimate definition of innovation, “Executing an idea which addresses a specific challenge and achieves value for both the company and customer.”
Innovation really has to do with significant positive change. It has always been about solving a vital problem through creating new and better value that enhances the quality of life for mankind. In a way, innovation is about creating a better future.
Even with regards to the idea of change, it is argued that if doesn’t involve a reasonable scale of change, it shouldn’t be called innovation. For instance, even the act of creating something that solves a problem, if it is not adopted by others, it can’t be called innovation. At best, that can only be called an invention, with the potential to become an innovation.
The scale dimension is very important if a thing is to be considered an innovation. This is what Annlie Killian implies when she reasons that “When you’re challenged with a really big problem, you realise that incremental steps won’t get you there…The breakthroughs really come when you really have to think at scale.”
We’ve seen that innovation involves creating value but a higher scale in which many persons benefit. But we’ll still gain a deeper understanding of the concept of innovation if we take into consideration the distinction Eric Ries, the author of The Lean Startup, makes between value hypotheses and growth hypotheses.
Tendayi Viki quotes him as referring to value hypotheses as “the customer needs being met by your product” and growth hypotheses as “how your company intends to grow customer numbers and revenues”. Eric Ries is of the view that companies should solve the value hypotheses first before going for scale. In other words, businesses (whether products or services) should make money by making things or rendering services people really want.
This then is how to innovate and stand out.
(1) Be guided by a mission statement. In the face of thousands of ideas racing through our minds every day, in the face of so much knowledge accumulating in the world, and in the face of expanding old problems and new complicated ones arising in life, knowing what specific mission to accomplish can really be tasking.
Crafting an appropriate mission statement takes some concentration and effort. But if you successful do it, you’ll be able to take steps with precision. Keeping your mission statement before you is a great guide when you want to innovate. It will help keep you on track.
(2) Focus on the customer. Embarking upon customer-driven innovation is fantastic. But Sarah Austin writes that listening to the customers is key, taking note of their complaints is the first step to customer-driven innovation.