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Innovation

May 4, 2020

A simple how-to guide for any business

Innovation transforms businesses. Achieving it catapults you to the front of the market, but also gives you a competitive edge. “If it’s so great, why isn’t everybody doing it?”. Because it’s much more than just coming up with an idea and implementing it. It involves taking great risks, putting your trust in creativity, and welcoming failure with open arms. Let’s start with the basics:

What do you call innovation?

Innovation doesn’t necessarily mean creating a ground-breaking product or coming up with the discovery of the century – it can also be about learning and continuous development.

“Why has nobody thought of that before?” “That’s a clever way of doing that!”

Offering new ways to accomplish goals, enabling brands to compete in new markets or just capturing the imagination of consumers are all parts of what makes something innovative.

They can range from the very high tech, such as 3D printing or nanotechnology (Armyo, Organovo, FBARs) to simple but clever solutions to a problem, like turning a ketchup bottle upside down or creating bags with integrated zip locks.

Innovation can also be the introduction of one product into a market that has never seen it before, such as Argan oil (used in North Africa but introduced to the Western market in the last 5-10 years).

How to achieve it?

There is no simple one way to do it (otherwise we would all be sitting on mountains of gold), but there are a few common starting points:

  1. An open mind: your business needs a strategy, and an attitude of open arms towards creativity and probable trial and error.
  2. Networking: “open innovation” requires networking between people inside and outside of the organisation, and it’s vital to listen to users, the market, and sometimes even collaborate with your competitors.
  3. Take risks: as a start-up, you have one idea. But as an established company, you might run into the need to balance multiple ideas, in which case you need a portfolio of innovation. Some ideas might be playing it safe, which is essential, but if you want to survive, “balancing between the safe bets and long shots is a tension that many organisations need”.

The most common mistake a business can make is to put all its eggs in one basket and never actually achieve any innovation. For example, they only focus on improving their products when they should also innovate their processes at the same time.

Achieving innovation is not always about technology or asking the market what it wants, because they don’t always know (such as the iPhone, which became the market leader).

“Businesses need the ability to manage innovations by being willing to admit that something didn’t work in the past and seeing how it can work better in the future.”

Managing teams: Intrapreneurial efforts

How to get teams involved in the innovation process is the best thing you can ask after “what is innovation?”. A place to start is by looking at entrepreneurship’s little brother, intrapreneurship.

  1. Intrapreneurship

    While an entrepreneur runs their own company, an intrapreneur works at a large company but acts like the leader of a start-up. Intrapreneurs have financial support and autonomy to create new products, services and systems for the benefit of the company,  which means that they typically manage a small team and are responsible for innovating.

    Examples include Google’s Gmail, developed by Paul Buchheit, or the “Like” button on Facebook. As an intrapreneur, your job is not just to identify problems – it’s to come up with the solutions, and to do it to help the company achieve objectives and quotas.
  2. Backing up creativity

    In 1975, Steven Sasson presented Kodak with the prototype for the first digital camera. Instead of cultivating creativity and adapting to change, Kodak saw this as a threat to their existing products and dissuaded Sasson from pursuing the invention.

    In 2012, unable to keep up with the digital market, Kodak filed for bankruptcy.

    Stifling an employee’s innovative ideas can potentially hinder your company from moving into the future. “While it’s important to recognise challenges, don’t let them douse your creativity and drive.”
  3. Use your most valued resource: your employees

    “Utilising and optimising existing products while embracing innovation is a key element of lasting growth and profitability”.

    A company’s most valuable asset is the people who work for them. Companies such as Dreamworks offer their employees free training (form scriptwriting to pitching) before putting them in front of the company’s executives. Employees at Google get a few hours a week to dedicate to innovative projects of their choosing.

    Consider following suit and encouraging not just creativity, but it’s presentation.

Benefits of prioritising innovation

  1. Competitive Edge

    In terms of business, there is a straightforward answer: innovation gives you a competitive edge. It starts with identifying and analysing your firm’s target market and its relative competition (perhaps your competitors overlooked something) and ends with you gaining an advantage in the market.

    In today’s marketplace, there are hundreds of products and services available to fulfil the needs of individuals and businesses. “Your ability to identify and exploit the features and associated benefits of your product or service and demonstrate how it is different or better than the competition will provide you with a competitive edge”.
  2. Tax Reliefs

    Innovation is not just about giving your business the upper hand. The ideas you create can make a positive ripple effect. It’s so sought-after that the government encourages innovation and is willing to help businesses out if this is their goal. How? By reducing the amount of tax you pay.

    This is known as Research and Development Tax Relief (R&D), and you can find info, whether you qualify, and how to go on about it in this dedicated blog.
  3. Failure is Success

    There are many definitions of “success”, but only one of failure. Usually, it’s associated with fiasco and let-downs. Yet when talking about innovation, failure should not only be expected and tolerated but celebrated. Why? Because it’s the one of the stepping stones to later success.

    1) Trying and failing gives you a better conceptual understanding of how to do something. This understanding is what turns failure into success.

    2) Individuals (not organisations) learn from failure. The biggest problem is that organisations tend to reprimand individuals who fail, and then try to have a second attempt with a different set of individuals.  The first individuals have newfound knowledge from earlier failures – this is valuable for the second attempt.

    3) “Failures are likely to result in future successes when organisations have an approach to evaluate why initiatives fail and then disseminate that information, so the knowledge becomes institutional.”

“Innovation is an extremely unstructured process driven by countless variables within and outside your control.” As such, failure is a reality – the only way to be successful is to accept it. 

How much do we know about innovation? 

This should have been the first question you ask yourself when reading on. We know, it was a bit cheeky of us to leave this all the way at the end, but trust us, we have a lot of experience in this constantly seeking for new learnings. 

One of the branches of Purr is Purr Ventures. Learning is one of our favourite things to do (apart from building stuff, of course) and we do this by trying, failing and succeeding. That’s why we created a separate section within our team to find solutions to problems that are presented to us. 

Some examples of innovative solutions are:

Purrple: a custom software solution that allows us to report on project success across profitability, on time delivery and quality. We couldn’t find any one tool that would suit our team so we decided to create one ourselves that linked into all of our other cloud platforms.

Social Pops: a mass video generator with applications in charity, education and membership organisations. You can read more about it on 4 Innovation ideas: Turning problems into a long-term business plan.

We are always open to new ideas, so if you have one but lack the expertise or development skills, do get in touch using the form at the bottom of the page or by clicking here.

Purr Recommends

Be proactive in your search for improvement. Innovation doesn’t grow on trees so don’t wait for a lightbulb moment and start making mistakes.

Unify your team efforts by understanding your team members and allow those who have an entrepreneurial mindset to lead your quest to new results (whether positive or negative).

Ensure any research and testing is relevant to your industry, company, team and, of course, time.

Allow yourself and your team to fail. Any result achieved will take you closer to an innovative solution and will resonate with the marketplace.

Get in touch

Either contact us using the details below, or fill out this form to send your message. If you’ve got a brief ready then attach that too. We’ll get back to you as soon as possible. [email protected] +44 (0) 20 3137 5612 86-90 Paul Street,
Shoreditch,
London EC2A 4NE

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