Innovation means literally ”gaining something new“.
Innovations result only from ideas, if these have been transferred into new products, services or processes and only if they essentially find a successful application and penetrate the market. (Wikipedia)
An innovation replaces the old product/service/process.
Innovation refers not just to technology but also to social affairs, administration, humanities, culture, communication, traffic and many other areas.
Let’s observe it from a macro perspective: The whole universe, everything that exists, is changing and constantly renewing itself. These laws apply throughout the universe. Why shouldn’t these laws affect our organizations?
It can only seem to be the impression that “it is good now” or that “we are the best anyway” or “that nobody can hold a candle to us”. However, this attitude is dangerous! Sometimes market leaders even act haughty with their statements about how good and powerful they are. History shows: Unfortunately, for many companies – regardless of their size – this attitude was fatal.
And, one more thing: Innovation does not only affect technical companies and technologies. Innovation concerns – EVERYTHING.
When is the right time for an innovation?
… or, let’s first ask another question: How often should you create innovation?
Both questions are highly relevant. The answer is: ALWAYS. That means that innovation should be created continuously. Whether we are currently focusing on new products, or on communication within the company, or we want to reposition the marketing work, or improve the production processes, or make our customer relationship even more efficient … the thought should always accompany us: “How can I make it better, faster, easier, more targeted?”
Some products have longer life cycles, e.g. as usual in the construction industry; but some are extremely short, such as IT or communication products and services. How often a company creates innovation will depend on this and its competition. Frankly, annual meetings where management thinks about new things for the future no longer make sense – they lose their competitiveness. It is best to create a culture in your company, where you constantly track down the sensible innovations and then gradually implement them in good coordination (e.g. in an innovation roadmap plan).
Can it be that you are too early with innovations on the market?
Yes. It can happen. That just means that you should prepare well for the right moment. When the time comes, you can take the right steps.
Can it be that you are too late in the market with innovation?
Yes. That happens often and you can usually not do much more. The train has left, the new S-curve is in progress and you have to catch up – unfortunately often without a chance of success.
It is impossible to answer this question in general. It depends on the industry and the complexity of the objectives, but also on the importance – e.g. how much business impact could the innovation have? Simpler projects can be implemented in a few days or weeks; Some strategic projects can last over several months or even extend as programs over several years (e.g. regional developments or new technologies).
Imagine the following: you have a small child, a baby of your own. What would you do to make this child a healthy, happy and successful person?
But what does that mean in innovation practice? First of all, you need a positive business-oriented attitude towards innovation. You need good, innovative teams. You need good contacts with potential customers. You need an appropriate budget. You should be able to handle risks and uncertainties well. And your teams ultimately need good management support in every respect.
Let’s talk about it in detail.
An invention per se is not an innovation. No matter how groundbreaking an invention appears to be, no matter how new or how much potential it has, it is not an innovation in itself.
An invention only becomes an innovation if it has been developed for practical implementation and has already been well received on the market. The same rules apply as for an idea: You have to make an idea or invention so concrete and put it into practice that it represents something new and valuable. This new (now “innovation”) brings clear benefits to the customer and usually replaces an old product, service, process or technology.
Ideas are only a small part of innovation.
But before we give you the answer, please try to guess it yourself. Imagine you have a problem that just occurred. You think about it for a minute or two and get an idea of how to solve this problem. The question is: “What percentage of innovation do you have right now?
According to T.A. Edison an idea is only 1% of innovation! 99% is perspiration – the hard work of turning an idea into an innovation. Our experience can only confirm this.
Of course, the ideas are important as a first step – a sparkle that could create the final solution. Still, it is not more than that. If you create an innovation, you will combine the different ideas, modify the ideas, change the form or even reject them … another idea will take its place. It is good like that. You develop your optimal solution and your attitude towards innovation – and with this experience you can do what you want with your ideas.
Lots of ideas, but not a lot of innovation … is a problem that we observe in general. Why is it so?
Developing ideas for innovations is a difficult task that requires a lot of hard work and know-how.
We recommend installing a structured innovation process that “forces and leads” your company to the optimal innovations – you will then create your innovations with the least effort and the least risk.
You also need committed employees who are typical innovators. Create an optimal mix of your innovation teams to enable different perspectives. In general, your employees should be innovators by nature. This means that they are curious, dynamic, open, outward-looking and happy to ask unusual questions. In practice, no problem should be unsolvable for them.
Your management should also support the innovators in their work – with their attitude, financially and with a willingness to take risks.
Correctly assessing the potential of an initial idea is a very difficult task – especially because the idea is still “young”. Imagine a newborn child… If someone asks you what it will look like in 20 years, what education it will receive and how successful or how sociable this person will be – could you answer that? Definitely not.
Ideas have to be developed and thus gain quality. If you leave ideas without attention, they fail. If you leave newborn children without food and love, they will die. Isn’t that logical?
However, we have special tools to evaluate ideas at an early stage. This enables us to bring the quality of the necessary decisions to a high level.
Innovation culture is a company-specific basic attitude that shines through all aspects of the company and is aligned towards innovations.
Thus, one of the most distinguished tasks of a company leader is to build and anchor a performance culture based on permanent renewal (= innovation).
The development of the innovation culture is usually a long-term process that requires very good planning, monitoring and, if necessary, adaptation of the route. The development of the innovation culture has no end point; It is a continuous, never-ending process. More info at: Improve Innovation Culture!
Structured innovation processes help to achieve optimal innovations in the best possible way. In other words, a good innovation process brings the team to an optimal solution in the shortest possible time and possibly with the lowest development costs. Good innovation processes use different tools to optimally unfold the creativity of the team, but also to make decisions easily, correctly and with the least risk.
There are many different innovation processes for different purposes. More info at: Innovation Processes
The ultimate innovation process doesn’t exist; Just like the best car doesn’t exist. We have products that are suitable for certain purposes and can deliver very good results. We use different innovation tools for different purposes. However, when people claim that a certain process is the ultimate (e.g. TRIZ or Design Thinking), they are likely to work primarily with these tools, which they know best, whereas they tend to be less familiar with other options.
A good innovation manager should have access to the best tool (in some cases – a combination of several tools) for his organization. In addition, a wise innovation manager can request external support – e.g. from the consulting expert who can support you if other or special tools are required. This saves costs and is usually the most efficient way.
Can we innovate without risk?
No we cannot. Nothing in the universe exists without risk. Even the “safest” actions, even static objects, hold a certain risk for someone and for a certain occasion. Well, that should make it easier for us not having to search for 100 percent safe innovations.
The right question now is: Can we create low-risk or minimal-risk innovations?
Yes we can. We can work with different approaches and tools and reach for the “less risky” or, if you like, the “safest” innovations. Most structured innovation processes reduce the risk of their own accord. For challenging topics or strategically important projects, we use “Innovation Risk Management” as a special instrument to minimize the innovation risk. More info at: Innovation- Risk Management
Small and medium-sized enterprises (we call them SME) usually do not have the power of large corporations. We understand power as financial power, political influence and stability when taking risks. In addition, SME usually have special skills and can hardly cover the wide range of specialist knowledge of many employees in large companies.
Nevertheless, smaller companies are often very innovative and have a much deeper understanding and knowledge in certain areas. And they are more flexible, communication is easier, projects start faster and are completed faster. That is their big advantage.
Small and medium-sized companies can build on their strengths: agility, flexibility, high level of innovation in certain areas, enthusiasm and closeness to customers. They should use simpler innovation processes that are faster (more agile) and well suited to their size and business. In addition, several small companies can act large through meaningful cooperation between different SME!
Most of the time, we don’t have to improve the “innovation culture” in SME or startups because they live this culture “day and night”.
Agile innovation is one of the answers to the very fast changes and the demand for fast innovations in the modern economy. However, agile innovation is only part of the truth. Just being agile, acting quickly without better understanding the issues, solutions and technologies can sometimes be dangerous.
Agility helps to gain insights at short term, and it makes sense to develop innovations in short and fast loops. However, agility should not be confused with impatience and fear of being late.
For example, if you run a hackathon or design thinking workshop or a quick structured idea management process (which are basically similar processes), it might be beneficial to compress a workshop into a day or two. You can reduce the time of such a workshop to two or three hours. While this saves time, it can have many disadvantages and not provide the optimal solutions.
We have found that preparing such workshops with a client has to be done in a solid way – to choose the best process or, if beneficial, even a combination of several tools.
The in-house development has the advantage that the company accesses its own resources and can thus save costs. This is practical and useful for confidential projects. The performance of your own employees and the innovation culture are also increasing to a certain extent.
Note, however, that in most cases, the internal teams remain “closed” if they don’t tend to “look outside”. This generally severely limits the potential for innovation. For this reason, you should try to open the mindset of your teams and projects to the outside as much as possible. We call it “Open Innovation”. In this way, you can carry out internal developments by involving customers, experts or research institutes in your projects. We do not need to mention that the Internet is a huge source of information and can support the opening up to the outside world.
It is not a good idea to stay “completely closed”.
Yes; and yes again!
Of course, your company must first acquire the attitude to “Open Innovation”. Then you can start: Your employees have to orientate themselves towards the outside and communicate quickly (effectively and efficiently) with the outside world. Your processes and projects should be adapted to an open way of working with innovations. You also need to get a grip on confidentiality.
However, all of this is possible and your efforts will be rewarded with new perspectives, a stronger impact of your innovations and even less effort to achieve your goals.
It is not possible to predict the future. At least it is not possible to predict it with absolute or even very high certainty. Trends can be predicted with certain models, but not with absolute certainty. The trends can arrive as predicted, but they can also not develop to the predicted extent and can even fail to materialize. There are many effects on the modern global economy that continuously influence the possible trends and make it difficult to make solid forecasts.
Nevertheless, the key is to understand trends, to actively prepare for trends and to use them to generate meaningful innovations! We are convinced that this is the only way for companies to survive or even gain benefits. More info at: Shape Future!
“Nothing comes from nothing.” … and unfortunately we have a fundamental conflict here.
Nevertheless, it is possible to create innovations quickly and with less effort.
What can you do for yourself: Try to understand the customer’s needs well. This is one of the basic requirements. You also need a well-organized, efficiently communicating team that takes customer needs into account, develops ideas and then implements them in innovation campaigns and ultimately in practice.
Simple innovation processes can help support you in workshops or in structured, fast (agile) projects. Do not forget to selectively involve your customers and knowledge carriers in these actions. More info at: Innovate @ small Companies!
All of this helps to generate meaningful innovations in less time – with lower costs and less capacity.
There are some good practices on how to plan innovations optimally. It makes sense to rely on proven help. i.c.i.c. uses the best tools for this (some from in-house development) and leads companies to the greatest possible success with minimal effort. InnoWINg© is one such tool. More info at: Maximize Innovation Power!
You can also obtain further innovation tools from us, whereby we will first make sure that we use the optimal instrument.
There are two ways of getting outside help: through cooperation in the sense of “Open Innovation” and/or through consulting services, such as here at i.c.i.c. Both helps make sense, and the following applies to both options: first think carefully about what you want to do and then plan well how you can actually bring innovations to the market.