Innovation today and what that should mean to your organization.
Economic Lenses: Grow Revenue, Increase Value
For many organizations to “disrupt or be disrupted” often means a fresh perspective and refusing to do things the way they have always been done. In this theme we will share our thoughts on how technology can drive innovation within all levels of an organization. Innovation doesn’t have to mean being the next “Uber”; innovation can come in unassuming places and drive incredible changes to the bottom line.
Sometimes there are eye rolls when the word “innovation” is used, and we understand why: it is often over used. We would like to remove the eye rolls and challenge our customers as we have challenged ourselves to start thinking differently about what innovation means within the walls of your organization.
So what is innovation? “It can be big, revolutionary things that challenge an entire industry. Or it can be smaller, everyday evolutionary innovation; things that we start to find new ways to do so that we can improve a process, streamline management, reduce maintenance, enhance productivity, or even unassuming things that with smaller changes actually make a big impact over time,” Shawn Ovenden, Practice Director of Applications.
We would contend that there are some opportunities for revolutionary innovations, and there are many opportunities for evolutionary innovations.
Let’s give a few examples of evolutionary thinking that we heard from our panel:
Applications: We have come across a lot of applications that are sitting on end of life platforms. The hardware is old, the O/S is out-of-date and no longer supported, nor is the database, the app language is 10 years old, etc. From a traditional perspective you would evaluate the app, lifecycle it if you don’t need it, or if you do, upgrade the O/S, upgrade the database and if you are lucky you only need a little bit of re-coding. “But what if you re-design the application from scratch? Look at the core of what the application is driving towards and design the application in a completely different way that aligns to new business standards, integrates with other applications, can be consumed through appropriate devices and mobile platforms,” Director of Business Technology Management. “Fostering that kind of thinking and allowing your team to take that approach, we would argue, is meaningful innovation.”
Process: Within Long View we spend time thinking about innovation in terms of process improvement and how we can reimagine processes in one of two ways:
- Are there things we are repeatedly doing that we can automate to save time?
- Can we identify the cause of these repeated actions and develop a way to reduce those events from happening initially?
We use these approaches across our own IT team and our customer service desk all the time to drive real results quickly from a reduction in both time and expenses.
Culture: But when it comes to innovation, it can be frustrating and we hear: “why can’t we innovate?” Or from an executive: “I am spending money on innovation, where is my ROI?” If you are looking for that next innovation be it revolutionary or evolutionary, you need to develop a culture that is conducive to that kind of thinking. Is your organization or business unit a well-oiled machine or is it chaos? If you are always in crisis mode, we would contend it would be hard to be thoughtful around new innovation. Is your business transparent? You need to give people the information they need to come up with new ideas which are the foundation of innovation, lack of transparency or rigid silos can also be a blocker to that success.
Agility: And finally, we want to leave you with one last thought: to be innovative, you have to be willing and able to respond to the opportunity. If you can’t or don’t have the ability to seize the moment, develop the idea, cut through the red tape, put aside the risk and say: “Go!”, otherwise the opportunity could be diminished or lost entirely, especially if your competitors aren’t waiting.
Things to consider:
Innovation, like creativity, needs room to breathe. Without time and space to think differently about how things are being done, you don’t have time to come up with new solutions, only continue to keep your head down and execute.
Are you agile enough to respond when there is an opportunity? Have you built a culture that reacts quickly and appropriately with purpose that is aligned to what the business is trying to achieve or are you giving your competition the opportunity to respond first because of red tape or set innovation cycles?