Can You Afford NOT to Innovate?

Tue, Aug 31, 2010

Process and Innovation

You might hear business owners respond to questions about exploring innovative practices for their companies with a variation of the following:

‘Innovate? Sure ‘“ when I get through paying my bills, finishing these latest projects, and completing my employee reviews, I’ll get right on it’¦’

This is a very understandable attitude for owners to have when it comes to the subject of innovation. Being a small or medium-sized business owner will always be first and foremost. Focusing on the day to day operations is your priority.

But nowadays, when almost every industry out there risks being further and further commoditized, can business owners afford NOT to innovate?

Perhaps ‘doing it the way you’ve always done it’ might still be a successful strategy for your company ‘“ but will that be the case 1, 2 or 5 years from now? Chances are, if you aren’t lucky to be part of an organization that enjoys a near-monopoly in your industry (a very rare case), your company should consider innovation as an essential part of your ongoing business plan.

So, where and how do you start? Well, perhaps the most common mistake made by companies trying to innovate is thinking too broadly about the topic.

‘The competitive value of a fast and effective innovation engine has never been greater,” says Booz Allen Hamilton Vice President Kevin Dieoff. “Yet of all the core functions of most companies, innovation may be managed with the least rigor. The key is to identify the priority areas where process improvements will have the greatest impact.”

So, in other words ‘“ when it comes to thinking about innovation, don’t bite off more than you can chew! Identify just one or two areas that clearly need process improvement within your company. Then, explore whether the best solution for these problem areas exists inside or outside your organization, and what will be the short- and long-term costs associated with each potential fix (be brutally honest here ‘“ this is not the time to gloss over costs or capabilities, since you’ll be dealing with the effects of these choices for potentially a very long time). Once you decide to go with a solution, make sure you regularly monitor the results, so you have the necessary data to make an intelligent decision about sticking with the new process or considering another path.

The most important thing is to keep asking:

Can we be doing things better, for ourselves and for our customers? And if the answer is yes, does a better, more efficient solution possibly exist outside our organization?

As a business owner, the question of where and when to innovate can always be ignored.

Until it’s too late, that is’¦

| More


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.