3 Ways to Drive Innovation

Innovation has become a buzzword for many businesses. But for startups, it’s essential to their business’s life. In fact, only 54.3 percent of startups make it to the four-year mark, and CB Insights positioned “no market need” as its second top reason for startup failure.

While this can be understood in several ways, one is the startup’s inability to justify its existence as a separate product or service. In other words, they didn’t differentiate enough from the competition as truly innovative startups did.

This doesn’t mean that innovation in the startup space is not taking place, but conveying that idea has become more complex. In today’s setting, long-established companies and startups can demonstrate commitment to ongoing innovation by adopting three key strategies. Taking the time and energy to innovate wisely can help separate your company from competitors, boost engagement, attract industry notice, and drive sales.

1. Make innovation a routine process.

The first step toward driving innovation is understanding that innovation is a dynamic process. Maintaining your relevance in an industry is all about recognizing how your products change the industry and re-adapting. Getting too comfortable can be a death sentence for any business, especially with everyone looking to disrupt your industry.

Persistent innovation will make it easier for your business to stay competitive and pivot as demanded by the market. Think of platforms like Snapchat, which had a sizable chunk of its market share taken away by Instagram.

The best way to ensure your business constantly innovates is to encourage innovation at all levels. This means creating a culture in which every team member has the opportunity to develop proposals, no matter how small or big. These ideas could range from automating a customer service process to creating a new product. The key is that team members feel their ideas are weighed and considered.

Simple policies such as allocating time for exploration and brainstorming can make a big difference. By taking such actions, you will create a space for your team members to innovate and find existing issues, connect, and slow down.

2. Create a diverse team.

Diversity can be one of the significant drivers behind innovation, depending on how you use it. Regarding business, diversity is often associated with age, gender, and race. However, this can be extended in many ways.

Think of a startup in the social media business. Often, such startups would prefer their job candidates to have experience in the social media industry. It’s worth asking if this is really necessary for a candidate to succeed in a given position. Perhaps a candidate with more technical expertise who is also looking to learn about the social media industry could bring new ideas to the table and, ultimately, fulfill their duties better.

Another easy way of creating diverse teams, which fortunately is becoming more popular, is professional development opportunities. While this is nothing new in itself, learning platforms such as Udemy and Coursera are making it easier for employers to provide such opportunities. Allowing team members to develop professionally will increase team diversity in several ways.

In an interview with Sener, software engineer and former innovation manager Ernö Péter said, “Diversity makes the team more efficient and any interaction extremely enriching. We all learn from each other, and that attitude is what can make us better. At the core of the Motor de Innovación. passion for innovation, engineering, and technology.”

Such small changes can diversify your team and make it easier for innovation to take place.

3. Create a team dedicated to innovation.

When it comes to innovation, communication is critical. What good is it if team members propose ideas without a workflow that allows them to be evaluated? To solve this, many organizations opt for using idea-sharing platforms and then leave the task to the product or other managers.

Unfortunately, the result is usually the same; a backlog and lack of follow-up.

The best solution to this issue is to create a dedicated innovation team who can be on top of ideas, communicate across departments, and develop innovation programs. These teams can either be made up of members of other groups or entirely of subject matter experts. There are multiple companies out there explicitly focused on helping businesses drive innovation.

One such company is L Marks, which has developed over 70 innovation programs in Japan, Israel, the US, and the UK The company also developed the largest number of corporate innovation labs in the UK

Daniel Saunder, L Mark’s chief executive officer and an experienced advisor in applied innovation, championed a unique approach. According to Saunder, L Mark had to engineer an entirely new process to engage with the level of innovation that the world of startups brings to an ever-changing business landscape.

The innovation system they developed is open and used as a model for training their internal teams. It helps employees to think like we’re a startup. When implemented correctly, new business opportunities arise from within.

While innovation is often associated with startups and new businesses, established companies can benefit significantly from it.

Whether you work with a professional innovation company or by yourself, combining external insights and intelligence — and having a dedicated innovation team — can do wonders for your business. That said, don’t forget to give credit where credit is due. The innovation team only works if the rest of your organization cooperates, so give the glory to your team members.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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