Being innovative is not a skill that's easily learned. In fact, companies big and small often struggle with encouraging innovation in their workplaces.
Does that sound familiar to you?
If so, then an innovation programme may be all that lies between your company's struggles and a future that's filled with innovation and amazing new product launches.
What is an innovation programme?
An innovation program is a way for companies to speed up their product development process or improve innovative thinking in the workplace.
They work well for companies large and small because they are scalable. The focus is to build the right skills and mindset among individuals and teams. Doing so is crucial for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), large companies and public institutions.
Companies that struggle with making progress on new initiatives, solving internal problems or enhancing services can benefit from an innovation programme. Typically, help is offered by think-tanks and other innovation specialists that respond to innovation calls sent out from organisations that seek help.
Why do you need an innovation programme?
There are several different issues in an innovation lifecycle that your company may be stuck on.
The first is when a team in your company is clueless about how to improve a current product or develop a new offering. A new product launch seems years away because your teams seem completely inept (or uninterested) in making progress on improving services.
The second issue occurs when your company knows what to do but can't do it efficiently or at all. It simply doesn't have the time to implement a major change right now. Or at least, it doesn't know how to get anything moving in the right direction. Your teams are bogged down by everyday routines and putting out fires that creep into the workplace on a daily or weekly basis.
The third problem may occur when your company may know what it needs to do but doesn't have the funds to implement a solution. It's hard to get funding commitments because no real progress is made and the problem that needs solving isn't defined very well.
Innovation programmes help companies that are stuck with these common issues because:
- Specific resources are devoted to coming up with a solution;
- Goals are identified and measured, so everyday business doesn't cause roadblocks;
- Ideas are rapidly tested and customer feedback is captured faster; and,
- Funding from investors is easier to secure because the company shows commitment to a solution. There is evidence of progress which encourages further investment along the way.
Common tips for successful innovation programmes
To get the most out of an innovation programme, it's highly recommended to seek the help of an innovation specialist.
Experts will implement some of the following tips (and more) to help your organisation with their innovation needs.
Your teams should actually want to participate
It may be tempting to volunteer individuals or teams to participate in a swanky and new innovation project. But the problem with choosing the fate of your employees is that they may become disenfranchised and unmotivated.
They may feel as though the new focus on innovation takes them away from their “real work”. They may become disgruntled and your grand vision of a revolutionising new way of doing business may fall short of expectations.
Instead, allow individuals and teams to self-identify as willing participants in the innovation project. Doing so increases the accountability and responsibility of those involved and will result in a more successful project.
Innovation programmes can experience many ups and downs in the development process, which is why getting a good team culture right from the start is important.
Focus on the customer
Speaking of people, your customers are some of the most important ones you should think about.
The adage of “a customer always knows best” exists for a reason. While they may not know everything, customers are the ones that will use your product or service. Like it or not, they are the final say on whether your commercial endeavours are successful or not.
Your offering needs to solve a problem that customers face. One of the most difficult parts of being innovative is simply trying to define the problem. To do so successfully, think about your customers' tendencies and preferences above all else.
Get ready for the long haul
A successful innovation programme can take time. Lots of it.
It may be several years between when you start a new project to when you see gains from a commercial perspective.
However, just because the entire process takes time, it doesn't mean you should wait to get feedback. Early testing of your ideas is the best way to get long-term success in your innovations.
You also shouldn't get too attached to a single idea. The first one will likely change several times through an iterative process. Put trust in your teams to bring new ideas to the table.
While it may sound cumbersome, just think that launching one innovative measure is better than launching zero, which is where you would be without the help of the innovation programme at all.
Don't be afraid to measure progress
How will you judge whether your efforts are a success?
It's easy to turn a blind eye to measurement because sometimes the truth hurts. However, once you have your main idea, you need to define the metrics you'll use to measure your project's success.
Success can be measured in many ways depending on the industry and the company. If you're struggling to brainstorm some good measures, then luckily for you the innovation programme can help. Look for the ability of a contracted innovation specialist for guidance.
Some common measures of success revolve around how you'll get paid. It may sound crude, but the willingness of customers to part with their cash is a big reason why you're in business in the first place. It's important to measure how well that's working out in practice – now and in the future.
Sales, user growth and adoption rates are great metrics for innovation programmes.
Know what aren't very good measures? Any metric that tracks what's happening internally in your organisation. Things like “number of innovation meetings held” or “number of investors found” only measure the progress of the internal project. Instead, you should measure the success of the external solution that the innovation programme offers.
Thinking about setting up a call for innovation?
As an innovation specialist, Innovolo has used its end-to-end product design framework to help other organisations, big and small. We turned their dreams into reality – from concept, to prototype, to product launch.
The Innovolation Framework helps every step of the way – including ideation, feasibility studies, specification development and technical documentation. We'll even help with your patent applications so that your intellectual property is protected.
We've worked with diverse public and private sectors and industries from construction to technology. If you have a dream for a new product or service, Innovolo has the expertise to empower the process and give you real results.
Whether you are a small business or a large enterprise, Innovolo has a unique innovation framework that can be tailored to your company's needs.
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