I’ve seen several examples over the past six months of companies trying to define what the concept of “innovation” means. It’s a fair point of discussion, and one that gets a lot of air time with many of today’s top global organizations. The debate usually starts with someone asking about how the company even defines innovation. A quick online search led me to some interesting definitions.
The Wikipedia definition of innovation is “new stuff that is made useful.” Could it really be that simple? Even if defining it is easy, the challenge is obviously then in finding the “new stuff.” So, no matter how companies decide to define it, eventually the hunt for the magic bullet of innovation begins. Increasingly high competition, mature markets, the desire for corporations to develop market adjacencies, and the inevitable increase of the impact of globalization on companies are all factors driving the focus on innovation today.
A recent article by Michael S. Hopkins in the MIT Sloan Management Review draws on some very unique concepts of The four ways IT is revolutionizing innovation. There are a few ideas in this article that I think all companies can learn from in his message about the success of IT companies:
· There is a lot of data out there that IT companies just know how to tap into more effectively. They are also structured to be able to replicate and scale up innovations.
· There are numerous data points out there that can be analyzed today – ultimately measuring the customer experience on how innovations are performing is critical.
· Many IT companies have a culture of innovation, which is a critical component for success.
· There is a shift in focus from as much long-range planning to more short-term experimenting to uncover customer needs.
Innovation can naturally just be something some companies do best, while others continue to struggle to define what innovation means to them. I believe that even if you are not a naturally innovative company you can develop this culture – particularly with the help of customers to help you drive your most innovative strategies. Use customer insights to uncover how to innovate with new services, create new products, or how to improve operations. After all, each of these can be considered “new stuff”.