Why is it so hard to build and maintain the company’s capacity to innovate?
It’s not a failure to execute but a failure to create strategic innovation. An innovation that aligns creative efforts with the whole business strategy.
Strategic innovation must address how innovation will create value for potential customers but at the same time business itself.
The critics of innovation tend to discount “ongoing” innovation that leverages a company’s existing capabilities and business model and go to the extreme of “disruptive” innovation. But that is a simplistic view. Not every innovation will require you to turn your business upside down. Yes, mostly these innovations get the press but there are many areas for innovation.
Ongoing innovation builds on a company’s existing competencies and business model—and hence its customer base.
Disruptive innovation requires a new business model but not necessarily a technological breakthrough. For that reason, it also challenges other companies business models.
I must say that despite massive investments of management time and money, innovation remains an ongoing pursuit in many companies. At this point, I need to admit that innovation initiatives frequently fail (is it good for me to say that?). Strategic innovation requires continual experimentation and adaptation. And successful innovators have a hard time sustaining their performance. But yes, it is still worth the trouble.
What exactly is strategic innovation?
It is an organization’s process of reinventing/redesigning its strategy to drive business growth, generate value for the company and its customers, and create a competitive advantage. Can I put it in simpler words? It is blending strategy and creative thinking to discover future business opportunities. This type of innovation is essential for organizations to adapt to the speed of the world’s change. Strategic innovation gets at the core of how an organization should manage change and adapt to changing circumstances.
Today, during the pandemics, innovation acts as a game-changer for businesses, helping them to improve their speed to market while at the same time enabling organizations to deliver superior customer experience and increased revenue despite covid-19 restrictions, lockdowns, and higher promotion activity of others.
And to avoid your disappointment I will say: aping someone else’s strategy is not the answer. There is no one concept that fits all companies equally well. I know, looking at others is a part of the creative process, but everything has some limits.
A custom innovation strategy will help you design a system to match your specific competitive needs and wants. And I use the word “system” intentionally. Because without the system, different parts of an organization can easily wind up pursuing conflicting priorities. I saw “innovation” persuing in many companies, unfortunately they been working on that separately, each department on its own. The result, misleading perspectives around different priorities and self-defeating branding. A clear business strategy it’s not enough. And business strategy is not innovation strategy.
Why connect innovation to strategy anyway?
The process of developing the strategy should start with a clear understanding of the specific goals of the company. Avoid these all-too-common generalities, such as “We need to innovate to bit our competitors”, “We will innovate to grow,” “We innovate to create value”. Those statements are not strategies.
Your company must think through what complementary assets, capabilities, products (services) could prevent customers from defecting to competitors and keep your position in the market strong. You should also specify how the different types of innovation fit into your business strategy and the resources that should be allocated to each.
The Leadership Matters
Creating a capacity to innovate starts with a good strategy. The question which arises is: whose job is it to set this strategy?
The answer: the most senior leaders of your organization. Innovation really cuts across almost every function. Only executive leader can manage such a complex system. This person must take prime responsibility for all the processes, structures, talent, and behaviours that shape how an organization searches for innovation opportunities, change ideas into concepts, selects them and lead the execution.
You can create an innovation department or hire an external team (like infuture.fashion). These solutions have pros and cons. We will be happy to inform you on that.
Remember, the creative idea when viewed through a strategic lens, not only makes perfect sense but drive all kinds of businesses forward. Many businesses while deciding about innovation goes for similar choices, mostly in areas of customer service or product. For instance, many companies have adopted custom packaging for their brands or designed “customer-centric” products. But remember that you can innovate in many different business areas and on many different levels. We give many exact examples in our ebook “Fashion Business in the UK”. We specialise in thinking strategically about all types of innovation. But since you read till the end, you probably already know that.
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