While innovation can be a part of large scale transformation and influenced by emerging technologies, Kate Eriksson shares some practical advice for businesses looking to make a change and take the first step in their innovation adventure.

While I was at the Ci2015 last week, there were thousands of discussions around innovation. The personal reflections and anecdotes were a great inspiration for attendees to start thinking about innovation, what needs to be changed and what the future holds.

The conference also prompted more pointed questions, such as:

“I work in a team that looks after part of this subject. There is a division above us, and a separate strategy and innovation area.  How can I change where we’re headed?”

Often individuals can feel constrained by hierarchy, structure, tradition and politics. Here are some practical ways to make innovation ‘real’ and keep it alive in your team (big or small):

1. Think about the scope you first aspired to

Depending on your framing or role – think about your focus. Is it changing the industry, the organisation, a business unit or small team?  This will help you focus on something tangible to get started. Quite often we can become a little disarmed by the enormity of a subject. It’s actually great to have a smaller focus. 

Trying new approaches and generating changes and stories in your team will drive people to want to join in. A prototype or customer experiment that is tangible and demonstrates results will always have a great impact.

2. Empower your team  

Get them together, paint a picture and vision that inspires and empowers them. Give them some tools, processes and techniques to think about things in a different way. Let them know you’ll be tracking, celebrating, supporting new insights and ways of working even when the learnings are not to continue. These stories can be shared up the reporting line that will likely be carried forward to demonstrate how innovative people, practices and teams can be.

3. Connect yourself to the customer and change

“When the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.”

Learning from Jack Welch’s comment, keep the customer and the outside environment front of mind – physically. Examples might include having the latest, real time customer social sentiment on a screen or poster, illustrating societal trends and demographics on a whiteboard or butchers paper, looking at the market and assets you have to leverage, and listing emerging competitors or technologies.

In addition to this, pictures of your customers and their lives can serve as a reminder to check in on what’s important to them. In your team, make sure you’re constantly answering the question: Why would our customers find what we’re working on, relevant or valuable?

4. Set a goal and measure it through data

Data is a fantastic way to set and measure your goals at all stages. At the outset, it’s part of a discovery phase to understand the landscape, situation, market size, customer behaviour and financials. Following this you’ll define the problem worth solving and here you will use data to work out if the problem might be of significant enough size for your attention. In a previous article I discussed 50% of the future being obvious – data is the answer to the other half. 

As your new idea or innovation progresses, data such as venture spending, drilling down into social feeds and sentiment to gain insights into specific issues will provide additional insights. When it’s time to test ideas, data will also help you understand clicks, usage, times of data, and behaviours to refine the proposition.

 

Contributor

Kate Bennett Eriksson

Kate is a former partner at PwC Australia and was its head of innovation and disruption.

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