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David Yeghiaian column: Four ways to shape real innovation

7:02 PM, Apr. 30, 2013  |  Comments
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Innovation can be deemed as a strategic business initiative, the answer to all of an organization's problems, or a concocted phenomenon. A recent "Chief Executive Magazine" article identified four ways to develop an organization capable of revolutionary innovation.

First, create an innovation team and make time for innovation. Everyone is busy doing their normal job, so there isn't always time for innovation. Depending upon the organization's size, form an innovation team to meet monthly.

Comprise the team with creative volunteer employees, and other top-performing employees as a leadership development opportunity. The team's purpose is to determine ways to engage the entire organization and customers to develop ideas for new markets, products, services, etc., in addition to an idea assessment and evaluation process.

Second is to have a cross-functional team and complete participation. This includes all departments and roles as everyone should be responsible for innovation. Oftentimes, younger employees are the most innovative yet ignored because of their age. This must change. The innovation process should encourage all organizational areas and positions to participate.

The third item involves understanding when to listen to or disregard customers' input. With innovation, customers may not always be right because they are only focused on themselves. In a truly innovative firm, emphasize transcending problems and solutions. What is not right for one customer may be right for many other (new) customers.

Procter & Gamble is a great example. The company had positive customer research on laundry detergent pouches; however, the concept failed enormously.

The fourth way is to appreciate that innovation isn't always brand new - it can be incremental. Most innovation is an extension of an organization's current capabilities. Adding a new product line, entering a new market or industry, or delighting a customer in a different way.

The summary is that there are many ways to innovate, and organizations must determine what is best for them. Innovation is a continuous effort - not an annual strategy. Does your organization have the right processes, people and strategy to proactively handle innovation? Knowing how to handle the four items above is a must.

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