Four ways to overcome lack of innovation in business

Here, Nick Thompson poses the question: How can we improve the internal processes which sometimes stifle creative input?

Business innovation enables organisations to optimise their product or service offering and better meet the market’s needs in a more efficient and profitable way. So what can be done to encourage an innovative culture in business? How can we improve the internal processes which sometimes stifle the creative input?

1. Build a trust culture

We all know that any development process is likely to throw up previously unknown issues and challenges. As much as senior planners and project managers want to believe they are able to predict all potential snags in advance and the best way to handle them, this is often not an ideal use of their time. The best solutions occur when you allow your teams to discover and address these challenges together, without the expectation of having a complete, up-front view of every possible scenario. When the business genuinely trusts in its delivery team, you will start nurturing an innovative atmosphere in your business.

2. Take the lean path

These days, many organisations are embracing the Agile approach when it comes to managing projects and solution deliveries. This methodology builds on the concept of ‘Lean Requirements’, where the organisation focuses on producing only the features that are directly valued by the customer, enabling the business to increase quality while reducing development time and costs.

The key building block for taking a Lean approach is a cross-functional team of stakeholders who engage and understand the main objectives. If they can work together to achieve an early prototype that validates some of the assumptions made with the market, they can reduce the long term risk for the business and improve the original concept. By releasing regular iterations, they can gradually deliver a complete product, but providing functional versions along the way. This allows the company to confidently track funds spent and value delivered – and change its investment strategy on the go if needed. This fluid, Agile approach encourages innovation at every step of the way.

3. Welcome failure

One of the best ways to discover a working solution is to discover ones that don’t work. Running a trial that fails to meet the defined objectives should not be considered a waste of time. Instead, it serves to provide valuable lessons that help the business identify critical problems or issues and how to avoid them.

Businesses often craft some of their most innovative solutions when faced with a failed project. By pulling out every learning from the experience, they can go back to the drawing board with a much more educated perspective. Whether the issue resides in the make-up of the solution, in its reception by the market or the competition, the failure should never be castigated by the business but instead recognised as a stepping stone towards a superior product.

4. Retain flexibility

Some of the most innovative businesses are the ones that expect the unexpected. By building in scope for potential change of direction, you allow the business to respond to shifts in the marketplace. Sudden changes in the political or economic landscape can have an immediate impact on your project, while also introducing a whole new business opportunity. By having a flexible approach to development and project management, you can encourage innovation that looks to maximise the new market conditions rather than forcing through a rigid plan which no longer fits as well as it would have done before.

Final thoughts

Business innovation is vital to any company, regardless of its size or heritage, but for small businesses and start-ups, innovation is what helps elevate them above larger competition. Although strategising which products and areas of development should be focussed on is important, innovation cannot take place without the right people behind it.

Building a trust culture and nurturing the right team, even when some failures may have occurred, means that progression and development will truly run through the core of a business. Rewarding innovation internally and recognising efforts and contributions that drive the business in new, dynamic directions will help reinforce the foundations of innovation and inspire a constant level of new thinking. This base of a development-focussed culture will then aid a brand to be flexible and adapt to the ever changing market conditions that could potentially make or break them.

Nick Thompson is managing director of DCSL Software

Further reading on innovation

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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