Today’s world is characterised by constant technological progress. You hear about new products, services, methods and other things virtually every day. Moreover, they are often referred to as “innovative” as well. This term can also be applied to companies, and companies increasingly often call themselves “innovative”, too. In today’s article, we will take a look at what innovation means in a company and how to promote it.
What is innovation?
Innovation is defined as “a set of competencies of an organisation to continuously discover sources of new solutions, as well as to absorb them from outside and generate on one’s own, and to implement and diffuse them (make them commonplace)”. Put simply, it is the ability to generate new ideas; the desire to improve, to create something new, and then implement and commercialise these new solutions. Innovation manifests itself in thinking outside the box, seeking solutions and going beyond the daily routine.
Virtually everyone knows companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft. Undoubtedly, these companies have achieved enormous global success through their innovation. This shows that the world is open to innovation and the demand for it is increasing. This also means that companies that do not follow the path of innovation may lose their competitiveness and ultimately cease to exist in a few years’ time. So do companies that do not have a charismatic leader like Steve Jobs or capital equal to that of Google have a chance to become innovative? The answer is a resounding YES! This is since innovation is not a trait that only the chosen few can attain it is an attitude that anyone can develop.
Attitude is key
Some people are born innovators. They find it remarkably easy to come up with new ideas. But what about the people who spend hours coming up with anything new and the results of their efforts still leave much to be desired? Well, we have one piece of advice for them — attitude is key! Innovation is primarily a kind of attitude that you can develop. The most important thing about being innovative is having an open mind. This is the driving force behind innovation. You will not invent anything new by repeating the same activities every day and cutting yourself off from any contact with the outside world.
This is where another innovation-driving factor comes in, i.e. contact. A lot of ideas come from outside as a result of conversations with others. That is why it is so vital to spend time with people, as well as to talk to them, and get their opinions on various topics. This allows you to trigger something within yourself, which may result in new ideas and solutions. Therefore, if you want to create innovation in your company, you have to start by changing your mindset.
“Architects of Innovation”
A key role in driving innovation in a company is played by leaders, who were dubbed “innovation architects” in “Innovation as Usual”, a book by Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg and Paddy Miller. The above authors believe that the leader’s primary task is to create a culture of innovation in the company, i.e. conditions in which creativity is inherent in the work of every employee, regardless of their position. Here, they point to a mistake often made, which is the desire to create something innovative at a moment’s notice. To that end, companies hold brainstorming sessions and send their staff off to workshops that are meant to help them come up with new ideas.
However, this often has the opposite effect. Employees return to a job where they repeat the same thing every day, which kills their creativity. This is why it is so important to develop a culture of innovation that drives innovation on a daily basis. Such culture can manifest itself in the way work is organised, as well as the development of new habits, practices and rituals to help trigger new ideas.
Yet another task facing managers is the ability to motivate and support their employees. Leaders should serve as guides for their teams, as well as be able to spark creativity and mobilise them to generate new ideas. To enable this, the book’s authors have proposed a set of “5+1 keystone behaviours”, which include focus, insight, modification, selection and diplomacy. All these behaviours should be supported by perseverance in introducing innovation on a daily basis. The introduction of the “5+1 keystone behaviour” model in a company has a significant impact on shaping an attitude of innovation among employees. This ensures that the creation of new ideas is not a one-off activity but rather a permanent part of the company’s system.
Innovation is becoming increasingly vital. Many companies now set up dedicated departments to handle their innovation activities. Therefore, the introduction of an innovation management process is a key step in creating an innovative company.
The figure below shows the four pillars that should comprise an innovation management process according to Instytut Innowacyjności Polska.
The first and most important pillar in innovation management is diagnosis. Diagnosis is construed as the determination of the company’s previous innovation level, as well as an analysis of its environment in terms of its ability to create innovation. A company may carry out an innovation diagnosis on its own or have an outside company carry out a so-called “innovation audit”.
In the second step, an organisational structure and processes need to be put in place to implement the process of generating innovative ideas in the company.
The next step is to come up with new ideas and manage the process of their implementation.
The final pillar of innovation management is determining how innovation is to be funded. Funding may be provided through both internal and external sources (grants, investors, etc.).
The innovation management process is a must for any company that wants to successfully implement innovation. It makes it possible to effectively supervise the implementation of innovations, measure the company’s innovation level and control the expenses incurred in this area. By introducing this process, the company demonstrates that it deems innovation a top priority.
Innovation is certainly an issue that is becoming increasingly important. The high level of computerisation and technological progress makes the demand for innovation ever greater. Therefore, to stay in the market, companies should follow the path of innovation and shape this trait within their structures. As “innovation architects”, leaders play a vital role in this process and are tasked with creating a company system that triggers creative ideas in employees every day. In addition, a leader should be a kind of guide who motivates his or her team to act creatively. Creating innovation in a company is therefore a continuous, day-to-day process. However, there are solutions that support process management, such as Data Engineering. Utilising cutting-edge IoT technology to collect and analyse information, Data Engineering enables companies to make quick and accurate decisions.
 Miller P., Wedell-Wedellsborg T., “Innovation as Usual: How to Help Your People Bring Great Ideas to Life”