What Is Innovation?

When creativity meets a problem we call this innovation. Simply said, the practice of innovation can result in new products, processes even new lines of business. I might argue that the term ‘innovation’ is overused today. However for business and dare I say, the future of humanity innovation is a core, essential activity. To put it in to perspective, innovation needs to be a movement inside of your company if you hope to survive the long term.

The pace of technological advances combined with a digitally connected world have laid the foundation for innovation to occur at a faster pace and on a global scale. It’s almost too much to keep pace with these advances. Every business needs to implement an emerging technology/emerging business “watch” program as well as an Innovation program to continuously ideate, test and go/no go.

As a serial entrepreneur and mentor to many startups, I find great innovation occurs in the fertile grounds of startups around the world. Entrepreneurs generally think differently than those who focus on operating a company. Mature businesses can take advantage of startups by linking with them to study their progress. They can pilot with them or even acquire these young businesses to fulfill a strategic initiative more quickly. Ultimately they need to act like entrepreneurs by applying Lean Startup methods to their own business.

Why do businesses need an innovation practice?

For businesses, innovation is the fuel, the very “stuff” of growth. A focus on innovation is important because it allows the organization to define issues and apply solutions. Simple as that sounds, trying to pull your head up from the day to day operations is often impossible. Just running the business is a full-time occupation. You need a practice to truly explore what ‘can be’, test your hypotheses and build the solution without the noise from the current day to day.

Getting started doesn’t need to be hard. I am a fan of the lean startup movement because it is a process that can be incorporated into any business. It allows for creativity to be applied to well-defined problems. The problem and creative solutions together form your hypothesis. The ‘science’ comes in when you test these hypothesis within the market.   These techniques are essential because they put a process around innovation and that saves money and time.

Why mature businesses should learn from startups? We do things differently. The Lean definition of a startup: a temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model. This is a difficult concept for a mature business but it is truly the only way a business can rapidly test and deploy the level of innovation it will need to compete into the future. An article by Steve Blank in Harvard Business Review further defines the lean startup concepts. Eric Reis defined the Lean movement because he realized that waterfall development, the tech industry’s traditional, linear product development approach, should be replaced by iterative agile techniques.

I believe the entrepreneurial thinking based on lean startup techniques will be the winning combination for your Innovation practice.

Businesses have an imperative to innovate now more than ever. They need to look both inside to their own employees as well as outside to understand new possibilities from emerging tech and new business models. Think like an entrepreneur is our mantra, and we have a process that can help your business succeed.

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