Oxford defines ‘innovation’ as 'the process of making changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas or products'. In the context of business, a 2015 report by the World Economic Forum defined ‘innovation’ as 'the successful commercialization of novel ideas, including products, services, processes and business models'. With an integrated global economy and an increasingly saturated business world today, heads of departments are constantly looking out for disconnections and loopholes. Why? In order to come up with new solutions and ideas that can serve the increasingly demanding human population of course. Innovation is no longer an option for business growth, it is now an important driver and a necessity.
True enough, modern businesses are constantly using a variety of methods to stand out from their sea of competitors. Market players are staying alert in order to keep up with the volatile business environment. It is found that there is a direct correlation to innovation and growth; the top 20% of the most innovative companies grew at a rate of 16% higher than the bottom 20%, which led to improved market shares and higher profit margins.
Innovation is not limited to projects that can bring in massive changes for the business. There’s a saying that goes: a little can go a long way, such as a step-by-step improvement process in the supply chain system. Start focusing on your company’s strengths, plan carefully and consider both the short- and long-term consequences of the change. Take a look at the opportunities that your business environment offers and strategically use them to overcome challenges and provide solutions. The bottom line is to make processes simpler and improve efficiency without compromising the quality and of course, to add value, and to better meet the needs of your stakeholders.
That being said, companies are still finding it a challenge to innovate effectively.
Some might think of innovation as a ‘light bulb moment’ from one individual. The reality, however, is far from it. Although this is not entirely impossible, effective brainstorming of innovative ideas and strategies will require input from plural entities, by means of collaboration and partnerships, to maximise the value and potential of the resulting product. It is important to note that collaboration does not only occur between different companies, but can also take place between different teams in the same company.
If I asked you to name three innovative companies off the top of your head, what brands come to mind?
Apple, Uber, 3M, Tesla, Amazon, Virgin… Do these names sound familiar? Why so? Take, for example, Apple Inc., voted as the world’s most innovative company in 2015, according to Boston Consulting Group’s Global Innovation Survey. It was apparent, from Steve Jobs’ biography, that the key to Apple’s innovative culture was not just Jobs’ talent, leadership and his passionate vision for Apple’s technology to be powerful tools that can change the world - it was his weekly executive meetings.
Jobs ensured that all the departments were effectively well-informed about new product developments from the early stages and frequently opened discussions that encouraged them to express opinions and build new strategies together. This collaborative approach also helped motivate employees by providing them with a common mission to work towards, and provide a focus to ensure minimal conflicting priorities between the different departments.
Today, Apple products have been revolutionized. From personal computers to iPods and iTunes, to the iPhone, iPad and most recently, the Apple Watch and Apple Music - Apple understands their target market well and is conscientiously keeping their product offerings relevant and up-to-date with the latest trends and technology, giving them an edge over their competitors.
Tesla Motors is another interesting example of an innovative company, reputable for having a countless number of collaborations and partnerships. The recent launch with Qantas amplifies the innovation-driven mindset of CEO, Elon Musk. This partnership aims to drive innovation for their customers and sustainability in the transport industry.
Qantas versus Tesla
Collaborations and partnerships made perfect business sense to Musk as they helped him to explore unchartered areas and foster potential new growth beyond his niche industry of electric vehicles. In contrast, businesses such as Blackberry and Nokia are prime examples of companies who have failed to innovate and adapt with time, technology and competition. Such companies will stagnate and eventually become irrelevant if they do not take action.
To rise above the competition, businesses must create a collaborative, innovative culture and consistently synergize to achieve effective and efficient decisions. Collaboration is not a simple strategy, especially in large organizations, but it is definitely something C-level executives should focus on. As Michael Jordan once said, 'Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships'.
If you’re interested in meeting like minded individuals and learning more about the latest trends and innovations in the industry, do check out the Chief Innovation Officer Summit Singapore on June 29 & 30, and in Shanghai on September 7-8.