What are the real benefits of driving innovation and efficiency in business?
Today ‘innovation’ is a buzzword: essential to many companies’ proclaimed existence, rather than just their success. But the term is often taken out of context, misunderstood, or held up as a flag of ‘bravery’, when there’s little intention to do what’s needed to implement it.
On the other hand, there’s ‘efficiency’: saving costs by working smarter, faster, and more effectively, and cutting down on non-vital expenses. While many organisations spend time focusing on this area rather than on innovation, there’s the argument that the benefits of efficiency are short-lived; with innovation trumping any attempt to simply reduce spend.
What should your organisation focus on when looking for growth, and how?
Need to innovate
Innovation is the solving of real-world problems using creative ideas; converting value-adding propositions into businesses, projects, and processes that yield tangible benefits to the innovating organisation and/or its customers.
Creative risk is often the differentiating factor between an average business and a world-class one. In fact, in our competitive and evolving business landscape, failing to optimise and innovate can even serve as a death sentence. Constraining creativity can also impact negatively on factors like employee morale, forward-thinking, growth, and, yes, efficiency.
On its own, efficiency isn’t a long-term growth strategy.
In today’s spirited market, a business can’t survive on this ingredient alone. Sometimes, however, an organisation needs to shrink to grow. Reassessing your company’s goals and refocusing on where you add value can help you to make the most advantageous use of your employees’ time and resources.
Your stage of growth shouldn’t determine your focus either. For instance: successful, mature businesses should, by nature, be efficient; their success and market share depend on it. Equally, a business in its infancy must be efficient just to exist. It’s permission to play.
Innovation isn’t necessarily something you aim for in your business; it’s something you enable.
This is because, most of the time, innovative solutions are uncovered or developed by organisations and people facing real-life problems that threaten their performance.
To derive the most benefit from your innovative efforts, I recommend implementing a systematic innovation programme that drives collaboration, promotes failure, encourages fast learning and failing, and insists on solving customers’ concerns. Idea generation through testing, learning, adapting and execution, also needs to be lean, thorough, fast and constant.
But, there is no blueprint for innovation. It takes analytical rigour, patience, and intellect; factors that stretch far beyond your service offerings.
Common concerns include:
- Employee wellbeing and managing attrition
- Technology and the continuous cycle of redundancy
- Discrepancies in clients’ needs and wants, and
- A plethora of disruptions (if you’re an ambitious start-up).
When implementing a system of innovation, remember that individuals are accustomed to doing things a certain way, so it’s crucial to develop trust. Find an inclusive way to encourage ideas and put processes in place to test them cheaply and validate them quickly.
The success of an innovation plan depends largely on the company.
With the current hype around disruption, many organisations practice ‘innoganda’ (innovation propaganda); an effort to innovate that has little hope of success, due to an unwillingness or unpreparedness to do what it truly takes to change or to disrupt the status quo.
Strategies like this are also a double-edged sword that can have an adverse impact on company culture and morale. But hard decisions are a part of business. Embrace your plan and remain transparent on all decisions that impact your staff members. Additionally, always make the best decision for the business, even if the logic goes against your emotions.
Innovation and disruption are hot-yet-significant buttons in business today. Don’t get so caught up in the hype that you lose sight of the important stuff.