A lot has been mentioned in the past few weeks about innovation and the importance of innovation. President Obama told us that we had to out-innovate the rest of the world, consultants and business leaders are calling on companies to step to the plate and increase innovation. But, what does that really mean?
Merriam-Webster defines innovation as: the introduction of something new, a new idea, method or device.
Does it mean that we need better products or does it mean we need better processes or does it mean that we need both?
Based on the old adage, “If you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’re going to keep getting what you’ve been getting”; I believe that it means, both. Not a very Ivy League definition I know, but it does hold true.
So, this brings us to where we are today. Companies are looking around and wondering what they can do that will differentiate their products or services. They know that they need to change, but the where and how, seems just out of reach.Sounds a lot like sustainability efforts doesn’t it. We can sense it’s there, but we don’t seem to be able to convert it into a tangible asset. So, let’s make it tangible by putting it into a frame that we can all recognize.
Many innovations have been developed out of a desire to improve production processes, reduce materials used, reduce environmental damage, replace products/services, reduce energy consumption and in order to conform to regulations. Perhaps they are not done in the name of sustainability, but they can and will produce sustainable results.
Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It is not a haphazard or a once a year activity performed at the Corporate Mountain Retreat. It is starts by taking a hard look at where your company currently is developmentally, economically, and culturally.
Making sure that you actively listen to your customers and hear what they are saying and not saying about you, your products and or services can provide you with valuable insight as to where you should start your initiatives. However, you shouldn’t just wait for your customers to tell you what they want! Remember, no one called and told Detorit, “Hey, I would like a nice, comfortable, and roomy van that I can use to haul my kids to soccer practice in.”
The title of this post, “Innovation is hard to schedule”, is a quote that is attributed to Dan Fylstra, a pioneer of the computer industry. I like it because I think he is right. Innovation is not something that you can call a meeting on Monday about and set a delivery date of Friday at 3:45 pm on. You need to know what it is that you need to work on, decide what area it is that you need to focus on, and make sure you have the right people involved in your efforts in order for the process to succeed.
Another key factor of innovation is, change. As William Pollard said, “Without change there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable.”
So, maybe what everyone is simply saying is that we need to change!