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Growing Strong: How A Dedicated Continuous Improvement Process Can Nurture Corporate Innovation

Having a method in place to capture, refine, and unleash disruptive new ideas is crucial for any innovation strategy. However, it’s just as important to employ a dedicated approach that allows incremental, small-scale improvements to be implemented systematically over time. In this article– we’ll explore why using dedicated ideation tools to support the continuous improvement process, can help keep your innovation ecosystem fruitful and thriving!  

If we compare innovation management to agriculture, we can see some similarities. In agriculture, some practices demand high risk for high returns, while others require little-to-no risk but yield smaller dividends. Some crops may require a higher amount of investment in special fertilizers and pest protection, but yield more expensive, exotic fruit. Whilst others require less intensive conditions but yield more common, cheaper results. These are often less time and resource-intensive to sustain and provide a steady income stream, but they are hardly enough to differentiate the farmer from the competition.

When considering your own innovation ‘agriculture’, you can liken the high risk/high reward crops to disruptive idea management. On the other hand, the lower risk/reward staples are akin to continuous improvement activities. By consistently implementing small-scale improvements to your internal processes, you can ensure your organization is able to remain productive in the long run, as well as respond more strategically to emerging challenges. This will, in turn, put you in a better position to invest in higher risk/reward ventures.

“Trying to bring big and bold ideas to life without streamlined internal processes in place is like trying to get seeds to grow in infertile soil »

After all, trying to bring big and bold ideas to life without having streamlined internal processes in place to support them is like trying to get seeds to grow in infertile soil. The aggregate small and incremental innovation that continuous improvement nourishes can – slowly but surely – produce the financial resources and free time required to invest in large-scale innovation projects.

Employing A Dedicated Continuous Improvement Process – Why is it so Critical?

If ideas can be likened to seeds, crowdsourcing platforms can be thought of as harvesting machines. They can be used to rapidly collect contributions from diverse sources, ensure that only the best ones are selected for nurturing (via employee voting, review committees, etc.), and assist you in the implementation and execution of an idea. Crowdsourcing platforms are used to gather ideas across many use-cases, from new product development, to disruptive innovation, to problem-solving, and process improvement.

While a single platform and process CAN be used for these many varied use-cases, it is much more effective to tailor the functionality and processes to match the specific approach you want to take.

Top 3 Reasons a Dedicated Platform is Crucial:

1. A Unique and Tailored Workflow

Whilst continuous improvement can support disruptive innovation, it has its own separate processes and workflows that are fundamentally different. The main difference in continuous improvement is that much of the workflows are automated, with clearly structured and defined processes – unlike the agile and dynamic methods required in innovation management. Ideas also tend to be bottom-up, empowering employees to suggest changes that will make processes more efficient relating to their own jobs or departments.

2. Automate Your Continuous Improvement Process

With the support of a continuous improvement platform, as an idea travels through the workflow, the factors that indicate whether an idea will eventually be implemented can all be automated throughout this process. Once a suggestion has been submitted it will only continue to the next stage if it meets the pre-determined rules set by your project leader. For example, a rule may be set for an idea to progress only if it receives an average score of 4.5 derived from user votes. Once an idea meets the ‘rule’ criteria it can then be automatically routed to specific stakeholders relevant to the idea for further development.

3. Reduce the Time to Implement Incremental Innovations

Collaboration throughout the continuous improvement process is also fundamentally different to innovation management, whilst in disruptive ideation you want many collaborators to refine and adapt an idea, with continuous improvement ideas tend to be smaller and easily implemented, so extensive discussion is not usually necessary. The assigned continuous improvement process owners, approvers, and experts can be the ones to guide and shape the idea, reducing the time, cost, and resources needed to implement incremental innovations such as this.

These core differences emphasize how important it is to tailor a separate system to the unique needs of your continuous improvement initiative. These process-oriented campaigns benefit from a system that allows for ideas to be implemented more efficiently, supported by automation, predetermined rules, and clearly defined stakeholders.

What are the Benefits of a Dedicated Continuous Improvement Process & Platform?

American fintech giant TSYS provides a great case study of just how impactive a continuous improvement platform can be. Operating in more than 80 countries and managing approximately 28 billion transactions per year, the company needed a way to harvest a diverse array of internal knowledge sets and direct them towards continuous improvement. To do this, they implemented Project WOW – a continuous improvement methodology developed by management consulting firm Above + Beyond. By applying this methodology – facilitated by Qmarkets’ software – TSYS was able to reduce hardware expenses, improve communication procedures, as well as drastically reduce employee downtime.

optimize workflow example 2This is an example of a continuous improvement workflow process – however, this can be tailored to fit any unique requirements.

Here are a few reasons why employing dedicated continuous improvement strategy, and tools to support it, could benefit your business by promoting a culture of performance excellence, reducing costs, and transforming your customer’s experience for the better.

Top 3 Benefits of a Continuous Improvement Platform:

1. Drive a Culture of Performance Excellence

Having a system in place to launch targeted campaigns on areas that need refining, ultimately drives a culture of best practice sharing. There are many reasons why employees do not vocalise ideas or share ways of improving processes, but often it is because there is no structure in place for them to do so. Employees with access to a continuous improvement platform understand that their ideas will be heard and constructively evaluated. This not only adapts your employee’s way of thinking into that of an innovator, but it will start to embed a culture of process improvement and operational excellence. Ultimately, this culture will make your employees, from every department of your company, a huge resource in turning your business into an efficient, productive, and innovative organization.

2. Streamline your Spending

Once the platform is in place you will have a steady stream of ideas readily available to you based on the targeted campaigns you set. These campaigns can leverage the collective intelligence of your business to solve strategic operational challenges that your company faces. The ideation process involves the evaluation of an idea, where experts can be invited to assess them against predefined KPIs, and automatically progress them through your managerial hierarchy. This optimizes cost savings, reduces waste, and allows for stretched budgets to be spent in the necessary areas.

3. Transform your Customer Experience

Alongside a culture of performance and operational excellence, having a platform focused on continuous improvement means that you can cultivate a customer-centric culture by asking your employees to submit ideas for eliminating pitfalls and bottlenecks, in order to improve your customer journey. Not only does this allow you to understand the customer journey fully, from various departments, but it allows you to properly support new sales and existing customers and deliver scalable value to them.

« if given the opportunity to, they will » – Steve Jobs sharing his views on the importance of giving employees the mechanisms to improve business processes.

This will improve your operational efficiency, as your customers will always be a part of your service design. You will also gain new insight from your employees on why customers are lost and hear ways to combat these losses. Customers will also feel valued as they will see that their feedback is being actioned via your employees. Overall, by adopting a continuous improvement platform, it will help support your organization in becoming customer-centric and transform your customer experience for the better, all whilst reducing costs and building better value.

How to Cultivate Fruitful Corporate Innovation

Though an idea management platform should remain at the core of your innovation activities, expanding your remit to encompass a continuous improvement platform will enable you to generate ROI in greater abundance. As we stated earlier, the more streamlined your internal processes become via continuous improvement initiatives, the easier it will be for new ideas to take root and develop within your company.

Q-optimize is a tool within Qmarket’s suite of collective intelligence products specifically designed to support all aspects of the continuous improvement process. Using Q-optimize, decision-makers can empower employees to contribute improvement suggestions wherever they may be. These suggestions can then be routed to designated experts and evaluators, as well as monitored to ensure they meet KPI parameters.

In essence, Q-optimize takes the core idea-collection mechanics present in Q-ideate – Qmarkets’ dedicated idea management tool – and refines them specifically for performance excellence activities. Aside from offering configurable features to meet the needs of businesses who are new to continuous improvement, Q-optimize is able to accommodate existing continuous improvement strategies or systems via advanced integration capabilities.

There is a reason why the expression ‘you reap what you sow’ continues to resonate over the millennia. It’s an adage that rings true in just about every area of life, and corporate innovation is no exception. The more diligently you diversify and nourish your innovation ecosystem with ideation and continuous improvement, the more bountiful will be the results you are likely to receive.

By implementing dedicated tools for your continuous improvement process, you can create huge benefits for your business and support your bigger innovation strategies. Contact us to learn more about our continuous improvement tools.

Julie Hermans Author
Julie Hermans

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