What is business innovation?
“Innovation” is possibly one of the most misused words, especially in the context of business. I’m not here to give a dictionary definition of what innovation is (you can Google this – but quite frankly you’ll end up none-the-wiser!) Rather I’d prefer to give an outline of what I believe innovation is… especially in the context of business.
Let’s quickly start by defining what business innovation isn’t:
- Product Development
Any of the above may be the embodiment of a business innovation, but none are close to what I believe business innovation truly is.
So what are my definitions of “innovation” and “business innovation”?
Innovation: Solving problems in new (and better) ways
Business Innovation: Solving customer problems in new (and better) ways
But hold on… that’s only one sentence (and barely one whole sentence at that!) But pick through it and it’s hard to find much fault (in-my-honest-and-humble-opinion!)
Firstly – I’m firmly of the opinion that implementing any change; process; technology; idea or product development that does not solve a problem better is NOT innovation. It’s akin to building a new mousetrap that does a poorer job of catching mice… innovative? Hardly.
Second – Business innovation must solve customer problems. I’m not suggesting for a second that you don’t look inwards to find innovation – but rest assured any internal changes that don’t have a flow-on (positive) effective to customers aren’t truly innovation. That said, I’d wager almost every internally focused innovation would ultimately have a positive flow-on effect to customers. I.e. if you find a way to reduce time spent on certain tasks and increase efficiency this will mean one of a number of things.
- You’ll have time freed up to focus more on customers;
- You’ll reduce costs which will (in-turn) reduce prices and/or increase competition;
- You’ll be more profitable which will allow you to re-invest in further innovations, better staff, better facilities etc.
So am I saying that all new ways of solving customer problems is business innovation?… YES! But this means that even small, non-technical changes could be considered innovations?… ABSOLUTELY!
Creating a business of constant innovation
And it is for these reasons that I am such an advocate for the idea of constant innovation within business. Does this mean I expect businesses to be in a constant state of change? Yes. But literally: do I truly mean a never-ending & relentless onslaught of change? Yes. And furthermore, I strongly believe that businesses that don’t adopt this point of view will be rendered obsolete in the next 5 to 10 years (no matter how much market share, market cap nor brand equity they have established).
Quite simply, consumers are just far too savvy to settle for less. They expect and demand easier, faster and better ways of doing things. And if they know the option exists they are perplexed as to why you as a business owner have not adopted them. Now as business owners we know it just isn’t that simple… but in a way, it kind of has to be.