5 Misconceptions to Avoid When Building Your Innovation Strategy

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Innovation — a necessary component of any successful business in the modern world. Without it, our companies would fail to grow and evolve with the ever-changing markets that we are serving. Regardless of the industry your business falls in, innovation can keep your team ahead of the trends and competitors and foster stability and consistency within your strategy. Instead of playing catch up, you can become a front-runner and turn your business into a leader within your field.

While innovation is pertinent, it is often misunderstood and as a result, many companies fail to reap the benefits of it at its best. However, by breaking down those common misconceptions, you and your team can begin to build a growth and innovation strategy that will sustain your business for years to come. So, to get started, here are five misconceptions many companies have about innovation that you need to consider when building your strategy.

Building a Robust Innovation Strategy: The 5 Innovation Misconceptions

1.   All Companies are Built to Drive Innovation

While every successful company aims for innovation, not every successful company is built for it. This is actually a paradox that we see in corporate America quite often. Businesses are making statements about their plans for the future however, as the organization grows, they are failing to examine how well their company’s structure, culture, and practices support their claims.

When it comes to innovation, organizations often use KPIs, ROIs and other metrics to base their decision-making. Which in theory, can be an effective way to continue profiting off what is working. However, it leaves very little room for new possibilities. Similarly, strict top-level decision-making increases the opportunity for groupthink and lessens the chance of fluid idea generation throughout the organization. Both of these are explicit examples of how your organization may be unintentionally discouraging “out-of-the box” thinking and in return, lessening your chances of innovating. However, there are also several implicit practices that your company may have in place that are showing employees that innovative ideas are not valued. These are not as easy to see from the surface so it may be wise to involve your Human Resources department to truly dissect the root of these implications.

A company like Yelp, led by CEO, Jeremy Stoppelman, is a great example of a robust innovation strategy to model your organization on. The company encourages transparency, constructive feedback, and constant employee recognition to showcase the value of every member of their workforce. This, in return, removes any hesitancy or fear around idea generation amongst the employees.

2.   Innovation and Creativity are the Same

While creativity is a very important part of innovation, the two are not one in the same and many companies make the mistake of believing this. If you examine the root of each concept, it may help you to identify how vastly different they actually are. Creativity is all about potential. If you were in a room of creatives who are bouncing ideas off one another, each idea, as great as it may be, is still “up in the air.” Being creative is simply releasing all the free-flowing thoughts without consideration of any implementation or strategy to make it happen.

Innovation, however, combines creativity with strategy and execution to allow all ideas and goals to become measurable for an organization. This is primarily why you should be prioritizing innovation over pure creativity within your company.

One of the best guides to innovation, The Little Black Book of Innovation, states that, “Innovation is a process that combines discovering an opportunity, blueprinting an idea to seize that opportunity, and implementing that idea to achieve results. Remember — no impact, no innovation.”

Creativity expert James Taylor discusses the differences between creativity and innovation.

By understanding the difference between these two commonly confused terms, you can take steps in the right direction to implementing a successful innovation strategy at your business.

3.   Innovation Is Spontaneous

As suggested previously, innovation requires strategy and execution; however, it is often thought to be a rather spontaneous practice by many organizations. Companies often develop execution plans for great ideas as they arise. However, this is not an effective way to stay ahead of the trends and competitors in your industry. 

Instead, adopting the discipline to innovate consistently may be just what your company needs to thrive. Even when the ideas aren’t there, creating a space where they can be generated will help your company to constantly grow as the market changes. Start by defining each component you will need to successfully innovate. At a basic level, you can start by: 

  • Aligning Your Goals with Your Culture – Bring in new talent, training, partnerships, or employee incentives to drive innovation throughout the organization.
  • Strategizing – Establish goals and principles you plan to abide by and allow them to guide you throughout the process.
  • Creating a Plan for Operations – From the idea generation stage to testing and implementation, figure how you will successfully come to execute your goals.
  • Becoming Organized – Decide on governance and roles in idea generation, research, decision making, analysis, etc.

For larger companies or those who are unfamiliar with the process, utilizing an innovation management system as part of your innovation strategy may be ideal to assist you in establishing a thorough and consistent process. With a systematic approach, you’ll be able to turn any front-end ideas or research into fully developed initiatives that will become measurable products, processes, technologies, etc.

4.   Innovation is Only Concerning Technology

This is probably one of the most common misconceptions you will come across about innovation in the business world. Generally speaking, our society is headed towards greater automation and technological resources in almost every industry and for that reason, it is often assumed that all innovation must be technology-related when this is just not the case.

Innovation can actually be separated into eight different categories:

  1. Product Innovation
  2. Technology Innovation
  3. Business Model Innovation
  4. Organizational Innovation
  5. Process Innovation
  6. Marketing/Sales Innovation
  7. Network Innovation
  8. Customer Engagement/ Retention Innovation

If we were to limit innovation to just technology, so many of our industries’ most impactful decisions and initiatives would not exist. Even with the impact that technology has today, there is so much that your company can do to sustain itself beyond the technological era.

Even companies that got their start from technological innovation have executed varying degrees of innovation throughout the years. A company like Gopuff, for example, who found success in its app-based food delivery service is redefining what success looks like in 2021. Instead of seeing a slew of technological innovations from the brand, co-founder Yakir Gola is working alongside well-respected celebrities and influencers to tackle the racial inequities we are seeing in the business world. This is innovation. Although not directly attached to the services or technologies of the company, they are expanding their network and partnerships to help sustain the business in various consumer markets over time.

5.   Innovation is Always Groundbreaking

Similar to humans, companies also get caught up in comparison and competition within their industries. Whether you are racing to keep up with a front-runner like Apple or working to stay in competition with businesses similar to yours, it is important to remember that all innovation looks different. Oftentimes this comparison we take on can create the assumption thatinnovation should always be groundbreaking to the industry and its consumers. However, this is not always the case and is not necessarily the most effective path to growth.

This shows the difference between incremental innovation and radical innovation – two different methods of innovation.

Small innovative changes to organizational structure or processes are virtually invisible to consumers; however, in the long run, they can greatly impact your products and services to each customer. Similarly, an update to a preexisting technology may not provide a noticeable impact to your company’s profits; however, it may be the stepping stone you need to develop a new and more effective piece of technology in the future.

This is why the organization and management of your innovation strategy is so important. Instead of requiring and only executing on one-off, big ideas, you can create a consistent schedule of idea generation and allow for all ideas to be presented. This helps to normalize the need for both big and small ideas and eliminates the assumption that every innovation needs to be “the one.” Allowing all ideas to come in at an equal playing field will also help to rid your employees of any hesitancies or insecurities they may have about their idea.

Coming Up with a Plan

As business people, it is important to understand what innovation is and what it is not in order to implement it effectively within your organization. Picking apart these common misconceptions is just the beginning, but in order to truly build a case as to why an innovation strategy is important for your business, you’ll need to continue your research and define the ways that innovation will benefit you. Then, with a thorough plan in place, innovation will become your company’s driving force into the future and will help it to stay afloat and thrive in the present.

Curious to find out how others have implemented an effective innovation strategy? Then check our webinar series now –  ‘2020 Vision Best Practice Series: Launching Innovation at Your Organization’.

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