S.T.A.R.T. Something: Innovation is key

By | May 24, 2011

Every business executive talks about innovation, the need for innovation, they have to innovate or die, and some say how great they are at innovation, but their innovations never reach the customer in time. Why is this the case? Because when innovation is expected because it’s the most important word in Buzzword Bingo, it fails to have the passion to see it through.

Talk is cheap, ideas are free, and intent is easy.

If you want to truly give your customers some meaningful innovations follow these rules to S.T.A.R.T. Something.

S.     Show Initiative

If your best innovation is covering ground your competitors have already walked, you are not innovating – you are catching up. Creating a Phone app? Are you the first to have this? Who else in your industry has one? Is your app doing the same identical things? There is no competitive advantage to being next in line, but you probably need this simply to stay competitive. True innovation comes from showing initiative. For example, being the first to take a customer pain and figuring a way to eliminate it. Start simple, take an internal process that is painfully slow and fraught with pain points (errors, internal bickering, etc) and tackle it once and for all. True innovation doesn’t come from copycats; it comes from those who strive to be unique in the market place.

T.     Try Stuff

If you feel the need to hit the Bull’s eye every time, you are standing too close to the target. Innovation comes from a series of failures and missteps that create knowledge to be better on the next attempt. This is why I hate “zero defect” corporate cultures. That mindset eliminates the best innovative ideas and efforts. When you can’t fail you only reach for the sure thing. Instead, create a culture of “try stuff” and watch how ideas get bigger and better and the execution of those ideas improve with every attempt. It’s how real innovation occurs.

A.     Attack Issues

Innovation implementation rarely reaches great heights because people tend to avoid risk, play safe and go for the sure thing. To innovate you must fully attack the issues you are addressing. It might get a bit messy, a few toes may get stepped on in the process, and someone’s feelings might get hurt. So be it. To win the battle with your competitors must first win the battles in-house. Half-hearted efforts never win the big prize and innovation isn’t worth trying if there isn’t a full on attack of the issue you or correcting with your innovation.

R.     Re-evaluate Everything

A large stumbling block to innovation is the transition from the vacuum of a lab to the dirty real world. Innovations don’t stand alone; they can bump into everything else that works with the old rules. The old policies, procedures, department design and even the old technology can be called into jeopardy with true innovation. This is why it is important when pursuing significant innovation to examine every impact a successful launch can have.

T.     Transparently Communicate

When you show initiative, try stuff, attack issues, and re-evaluate everything you have completely challenged the status quo. People like the status quo because they know what to expect, have figured how to be successful, don’t like risk and know where the pain is. Which is why innovation needs a marketing campaign every step of the way. The best marketing campaign for innovation is transparent communication. Let people hear the story along the way, encourage them to buy in, and share the benefits the overall organization will experience once the innovation is the new status quo.

Innovation is a defining tool for the new economy for every organization, especially in well-established industries. Don’t simply play follow the leader – START Something.

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