What Is Innovation and Why Is It Important for Your Organization?
The business world shifted on its axis during the year of 2020.
COVID-19 and its effects left an indelible mark on the workforce and our customers that we’re still learning to navigate today. Businesses, schools, hospitals, and entire industries had to quickly take a step back and re-think how to operate.
If the global pandemic taught us anything, it is that crisis is the mother of innovation.
What Is Innovation?
You may say innovation is synonymous with change, progress, or something new. Or perhaps you associate it with technology or an entrepreneurial activity.
At Thrivence, we define innovation as a new or improved way of creating value.
The Tension With Innovation: People Love It, But Hate Change
The idea of creating more value for people evokes positive emotions, but there’s a catch.
People love innovation, but they hate change.
If we’re going to create a new and improved way of providing value for people it is going to require change.
People appreciate the idea of innovation once it’s proven and we know that it’s successful. But at the very beginning stages, when innovation causes change or when we don’t know exactly what the outcome is going to be, this is where people get nervous.
You may hear questions like:
- “What if it doesn’t work?”
- “What if the disruption that occurs is just too much to manage?”
- “What if things start to go the other direction and they don’t get better, but they get worse?”
Can you hear the conversation? Perhaps you’ve had these conversations with your colleagues.
An Invitation Into the Tension
As a leader, you may be tasked with managing changemakers inside a culture, the effects of that change, and the future of the business.
There is inherent tension with each of these tasks.
As a leader, you must be comfortable with this tension because the better that this tension is managed, the more innovation can thrive inside your organization.
I’ve worked with many entrepreneurs and leaders that grow frustrated because they’ve got great ideas and those ideas are no doubt the future for their organization. Yet the struggle is not the public’s response to those ideas but the internal leadership challenge of getting people to embrace that future and to embrace the change that comes with it.
Is Your Culture Ready?
Consider the industry of higher education. There has been more change in this industry in the last 15 years than the previous 300 years.
Hundreds of years ago, colleges in Europe were established and people came and sat at the feet of a learned and respected professor who imparted knowledge. Upon receiving that knowledge they were then granted a diploma and participated in a commencement, and then went out to serve the world.
It is not too different today in many traditional college atmospheres. It hasn’t changed.
What has changed though is the information age and the accessibility of information. Now if you want to study a particular subject, you don’t need to go to a college, you just need access to the internet. There is more information available online than one professor could possibly retain and communicate out of their head alone.
As a leader, you can lay the foundation for healthy change and innovation by simply developing two lists. First, list what is going right and what you’re proud of. Do not minimize these things, but celebrate them. Next, list the items in your organization or culture that can benefit from some improvement.
- What is it that you’re doing right in your company or organization? What is working?
- What should be improved and continued?
- Where do we need to create more value?
- Where do we need to simply get better in terms of serving our customers?
- Where is it that you need to get ahead?
- How might you think differently?
3 Reasons You Need Innovation for Business Growth
- Innovation grows your business. Successful innovation allows you to add value to your business so that you can add new value to everyone you serve—if you don’t innovate well, your business will plateau.
- Innovation helps you stay ahead of the competition. With a rapidly changing market, there are more competing businesses than ever before. Innovative thinking can help you keep up with customer needs and create better predictions. If your business doesn’t innovate, you’ll watch innovative companies bring new ideas to the marketplace, and you’ll have to scramble to keep up.
- Innovation helps you take advantage of new technologies. Technology is evolving faster than ever before, which means that there may be new, more efficient technologies to make better products, to offer your services, to market your business, or to track your performance with analytics. By taking advantage of these new technologies for process innovation, you’ll be able to optimize your business and gain a competitive advantage over your competitors.