Organizations create competitive advantages by coming up with innovative solutions, products or models that address strategic business problems. For example, Amazon started off as an online bookstore almost 25 years ago before offering virtually every product imaginable, introducing the Prime subscription model, and becoming one of the world’s largest retailers.
In many cases, innovation happens by chance. The idea for the Slinky came from a naval engineer who accidentally knocked a spring off a shelf and watched it “walk” down instead of fall to the floor. But is it possible to plan for innovation? Are there things organizations can do to encourage innovation?
To answer these questions, we must first clarify exactly what innovation is. In the business world, innovation is an overused buzzword with definitions that vary. Webster’s definition of innovation is “the introduction of something new,” but that doesn’t seem to capture the full meaning, especially from a business perspective.
More than a product or an end result, innovation is a process. How do you identify a problem, develop a solution that’s different from other existing solutions, put that solution in place and create value? A more accurate definition would be that innovation is the process of creating and applying a unique, valuable solution to a real problem.
The fact is, innovation in a business environment is more likely to happen on purpose, not by accident. And because innovation is a process and not a product, it needs to be managed to ensure the process is repeatable and sustainable.
Innovation management refers to the process of developing and introducing a new product, service, workflow or business model. All strategic planning, processes and tasks are carefully coordinated and managed to achieve an outcome that solves a specific problem or otherwise benefits the organization. This is different from idea management, which focuses on the process of gathering, organizing and evaluating ideas, and efficiently implementing the best ideas.
Practicing innovation management helps to build a culture in which innovation is encouraged and all input and ideas are collected and cultivated. It ensures that you have the systems and resources in place – people, funding, technology – to support innovative change in a way that’s efficient, secure and structured.
Focusing on the technology component, innovation management software is designed to help organizations manage their innovation tasks, initiatives and data through a single, centralized platform. This provides users with a simple way to submit new ideas, share expertise, offer feedback, collaboratively flesh out details, assign roles and implement the solution. Innovation management software even allows users to vote on concepts and reward users when tasks are completed and milestones are reached.
To ensure the success of your innovation management initiative, you need to have the support of executive leadership. Assign a senior manager to lead innovation projects and communicate their value to the rest of the organization. Also, integrate your innovation management software with your HR portal to make sure the people with the right knowledge and experience are assigned to your innovation projects and can share information.
Ultimately, innovation is a springboard to business growth and competitive differentiation. By practicing innovation management, implementing the right software, and integrating with your HR portal, you’ll have the systems and processes in place to support continuous, purposeful innovation.
Written and composed by Lyndsay Soprano, Director of Marketing