Innovation is key to ensuring your organisation continues to solve the problems your customers face in a meaningful way. Your ongoing vitality relies on you keeping pace with how the world of your customer is changing otherwise your once happy customers will become disillusioned with your product and service solutions and a competitor will step in and offer something more to their liking. It’s inevitable.
How do you innovate, or more importantly, how can you accelerate innovation within your organisation? Guild Insurance realised several years ago that we didn’t have good answers to these questions so we enlisted the help of Inventium, Australia’s leading innovation consultancy. Our journey with Inventium continued last week when we toured Silicon Valley together with a small delegation of Australian business leaders to speak to 10 of the most innovative companies in the world and hear how they do it. This is what we learned.
1. Culture is king
It sounds obvious, but workplace culture is the key to who wants to work with you, how they will work with you and whether they want to stay working with you. This begins with a bold vision that inspires staff to pursue a higher purpose and feel empowered to step out of their comfort zones to try something new. Bring this to life through values that prioritise innovation and ensure you never compromise these values. Know the behaviours that you won’t accept, and ensure all staff hold true to these, regardless of whatever superpower an individual staff member may possess. Last but not least, empower all staff to be involved in innovation. Involving all staff will identify the select few with the drive to help you achieve disruptive innovation.
2. Innovate or die
Creating change that adds value takes focus. Provide your teams with a pathway to follow and grease the wheels of motion by putting someone in charge of that process who is unfamiliar with the problems to be solved. At a minimum your process should include:
a. Use customer feedback to find the intersection between the job they want to do but can’t get done and your strategic priorities. That’s the problem you need to solve.
b. Hold idea generation and prioritisation sessions where ideas can flow without judgement.
c. Prioritise, but don’t judge the ideas – it’s futile. Use lean methodology to rapidly experiment and test out solutions, and keep iterating to evolve the solution until you get evidence from your customers that it is solving their problem. Only then put your solution into widespread production.
3. The need for speed
The pace of change has never been this fast and will never be this slow again.
The value of your greatest ideas may be as short-lived as a Snapchat video. Your ultimate success will not be defined by the ideas you generate but by your speed of execution. Don’t be afraid to make the occasional mistake along the way - as long as you rapidly iterate them any failures will be small. Have faith that ultimately the lessons learned will be more valuable than the cost of any failure. Never allow your desire to push forward as hard as you can to become an excuse for sloppy work. Lastly, don’t try to do it all by yourself. Collaborate with anybody who’ll listen, even if it’s a competitor – the insights you’ll get in return may just provide the paradigm shift you’re looking for.
Innovation comes in all shapes and sizes – it’s not all grandios or daringly disruptive but you need a dose of that too. As long as you focus on delivering change that adds value, no matter the size, you can change somebody’s world for the better which ultimately makes us all better off.