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6 Tips to Thinking Outside the Innovation Box

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Does your business have an innovation process? No? Then perhaps you should count yourself lucky! Most businesses that do have one, sometimes get stuck in it, stopping them from thinking Bigger and Bolder, and therefore also stopping them from dreaming. If this is the case with your own organisation, then this post should offer some inspiration for change.

When companies are starting up, they often begin with just one or a few products or services to offer. However, as they grow, they get ideas about other products or services they could add, sometimes at the suggestion of their current customers. As business continues to grow, they might set up an innovation process or put someone in charge of searching for new ideas and unfortunately this tends to be when they start to lose contact with their customers and what they really desire.

Today we all underst and the importance of customer centricity, the power of putting the customer at the heart of the business and yet we still manage to forget them somehow when looking to innovate. For this reason, I thought it would be useful to share my six tips to help you to think outside the innovation box in your organisation, whether you are a big multinational, or just a small local firm.

#1. Start with your customers in mind

This makes so much sense and yet we all seem to forget it at times. Big companies have R&D departments so their innovations tend to be technology and skill driven. Smaller ones have maybe more limited resources, so ideation falls on the desk of the owner, marketing head or the person responsible for operations. All businesses have customers, so why not start with them? What do they dream about improving, what are their biggest issues with your category? Finding solutions to their frustrations will almost certainly guarantee the success of your next new product or service.

#2. Why do you want to innovate?

The answer to this simple question will give you some ideas of the solutions you need to create:

  • Is competition growing? If so, what do they know about your customers that you don’t? What can you do about it, both now as well as in the future to stop it happening again?
  • Is the market segment growing faster than you are, so even though your sales are growing you are losing market share? If so, why; what products and sub-categories are increasing, what benefits are attracting customers more than in the past? Can you follow or lead with a different benefit area?
  • Is your image getting old and in need of updating? Where are your comparative weaknesses and is competition filling all possible positionings in the category map?

#3. Do you need to innovate or renovate?

The difference between the two can make a huge difference in what you develop. If you need to innovate but actually produce a “small” innovation, closer to a renovation, you are less likely to succeed, at least in CPG, according to Steenkamp. Identify which end of the innovation scale you are aiming for and rework your ideas until you reach it.

#4. Can you innovate outside your box?

Most companies innovate in very predictable ways, so that even their current customers are less excited or inspired to try their new offers. This is unfortunately a trait of human behaviour; we all get bored in the end, even with the best product or service that excited us when it was launched. What was once seen as a breakthrough can quickly become taken for granted as customers become used to it. Therefore why not think outside the box, using different levers? For example food companies continuously bring out new flavours, when maybe a new sensation is what’s needed. Nestlé’s chocolate mousse is a great example of this.

#5. Reinventing innovation needs a new culture, not a new process

As mentioned above, new processes are usually not the best answer to more successful innovation. According to a recent Forbes article likeminded people develop likeminded products. To create breakthrough innovation, you need a culture shock, people who think differently. This can be as simple as taking people from different departments to work together, or hiring people from the outside, with very different mind-sets to stimulate new thinking.

#6. Innovate in answer to scenarios not trends

Most customer-facing organisations follow societal trends. The problem with this is that their competition is doing exactly the same thing, which means that they will be in a constant rush to launch faster than their competitors, and at best end up leading a new segment of two or more almost identical products.

A much better way to innovate is to respond to opportunities or challenges identified by developing future scenarios out of the trends. These have the advantage of being unlikely to be duplicated, at least in the beginning, and are further out time-wise so they will allow more time to create a new offering even before your customer knows they have the need. In some cases this might mean you will have to be patient until the customer is ready – it took Nespresso more than 20 years to become the phenomenal success it is today! – but at least you are less likely to be faced with a competitor offering a similar product.

If you follow these six tips, you can be sure your innovation will meet with greater success and your business will be well prepared to capture future opportunities better than the competition. If you are already doing all of these, I congratulate you. Still struggling to grow as fast as you would like? Well then here is my seventh, only for the bravest innovators:

EXTRA #7. What business are you in?

If you are constantly met with innovations from your major competitors just before or after your own launches, then it is time to get out of the fight be changing the territory. What do I mean by that? Ask yourself what business you are really in.

For example a cigarette manufacturer could see itself as a provider of personal pleasure; now that opens up innovation doesn’t it, far beyond just a different cigarette br and? And suppose a food company became a nutrition business offering supplements and meal replacements; a home cleaning corporation widens to become a home carer and beautifier; a pet food company shares its passion for animals be offering insurance and medical treatments. Asking what business you are really in and not the one you thought you were in, can sometimes be just the spark that is needed to truly successful innovation.

So which one of these are you going to use this month to start reinventing your innovation? Take action today, so that you get a positive ROI on your reading of this post.

Would you like to share your own ideas for improving innovation? Please add a comment below; we reply to all comments and might invite you to write a guest post on the topic for us.

If you want to know more about innovation, please check our website here: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/vision/

Do you know someone who is struggling with their own innovation? Please share this post with them.

Does your organisation need more help in reinventing its own innovation? We can run a 1-Day Catalyst session to get you started FAST; contact us here for more information.

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2 thoughts on “6 Tips to Thinking Outside the Innovation Box

  1. Good directions, definitely.
    Based on my experience on innovation in a large organisation, beyond culture – your #5 which is key, fully agreed – are looming people’s capabilities to drive innovation or change:
    * project management that does not tick boxes but anticipates issues
    * as little system-oriented people as required – behind your #4
    * capabilities to really comprehend innovation challenges – which stand as one of the root causes to your #1, #2 & #3
    * change management talents that are able to manage innovation challenges – root cause to at least #5 & #6
    And since people’s issues are the hardest to tackle and to measure, organisations prefer not to confront them.
    SeV

    1. Hi Sebastien,
      Great comments. 
      People issues are in fact one of the major barriers to improved innovation according to a recent study conducted by McKinsey. If the organisation can’t work in cross-functional teams then success is highly unlikely and this is not only true for innovation, but in many other areas as well. This is often linked to the culture and CEO directives which set the stage for risk taking – or not.
      Do you have similar experiences?

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