Streamlining your business

5 tips for creating a business innovation program

Innovation isn’t just a trendy buzzword. It can help set your business apart from your competitors, guard against sudden changes in the market and drive ongoing business success.

 

However, innovation doesn't just occur overnight. It's the result of providing the right environment for ideas to be heard and flourish. Specialised internal business innovation programs can be an effective accelerator to make this happen. Learn how you can create one for your business with these five tips.

1. Identify where innovation belongs in your business

Like all good things in business, boosting innovation begins with a plan. Your first step should be identifying where exactly innovation belongs in your business, so ask yourself what you would like to achieve. For example, are you looking to improve operational processes or service offering or revamp your business model?

Whatever your agenda is, that's the area of your business your innovation program should address. Then, look at the internal avenues connected to it and work out which ones require the most improvement to realise your vision.

2. Assess your customers' needs

Don't forget that, regardless of which area of your business you're trying to improve, your customers' needs should still be at the centre of your operation. Effective innovation often aims to find a new way to solve their problems. A market analysis can help you determine where their needs might not be entirely met and where you could add more value. This can reveal new opportunities that form the foundation of your innovation strategy.

It's also important to remember it's not just about understanding your customers' needs in the present. The best innovation programs anticipate how your customers' needs will evolve going forward and offer solutions before they even realise they have a problem.

3. Choose the right innovation model 

There are different types of innovation programs. Let’s take a closer look at these: 

Create an internal innovation team

Looking at the skills, strengths and expertise of your talent, you can designate an internal innovation team to drive the innovation. This is a great way to tap into your powerhouse to execute the initiative giving you the confidence you’re leveraging the best internal resources for successful delivery.

This approach can be integrated into the organisation’s strategic objectives and be part of each team member’s development plan.

You can also do a call out to the wider organisation. It's an opportunity to share your vision to innovate, create excitement and invite employees to join in and drive the initiative. By opening it up to everyone, you’re not only promoting inclusiveness, but you’re also encouraging members of all departments to work together – collaborate and contribute fresh ideas in a series of workshops.

It will provide a forum for employees to be creative and become actively involved in something other than their everyday work. The intel they bring to the table on the business and its history, industry or sector is priceless.

The workshops can be led by a project manager and a change manager – if your organisation has one, so key leaders can track and direct the progress. 

External innovation opportunities

By outsourcing the innovation to an external consultancy, you have the advantage of using a company that understands the ins and outs of your industry or sector with in-depth knowledge of competitors. This can be an advantage as they do not bring any bias into the equation, which may the case with the internal innovation options.

Outsourcing may be an option if you don’t have the right mix of skills inhouse, resources, technology or time. It will free up your staff to concentrate on their individual responsibilities while the innovation is managed by external experts. 

Another way to innovate externally is to partner with a business. This is a cost-effective way for two organisations to collaborate, combine strengths, resources and efficiencies to execute the innovation. Likewise, it’s important to address any differences or shortfalls and how to bridge the gaps.

An example of how two entities can work well together is Melbourne Water partnering with Deakin University’s CADET Virtual Reality Training and Simulation Research Lab. They developed the world’s first Confined Space Entry Simulator. The cutting-edge technology provides a virtual safety training experience for being in confined areas such as sewers. This model can be replicated for other confined working conditions such as in mining, oil and gas industries. 

You can also partner with a startup that has the capability to deliver the solution and the willingness to adapt to meet specific needs. Startups bring fresh perspective, passion and innovative approaches which they develop through their own real experiences.

By partnering with a startup, you're helping support them in their entrepreneurial journey.

4. Define your innovation framework

Once you determine whether you will apply an internal or external approach, an innovation framework can be devised. Consider this to be a blueprint the innovation team will follow. It also helps measure the progress and success of the program.

Essentially, the innovation framework should include your overarching goal, the customer needs you aim to meet, and a series of milestones or deliverables you expect to come out of the process. This can help you and any external stakeholders, to strategically work towards a positive return on your investment.

5. Monitor and measure your progress

Unstructured, unmonitored innovation efforts can easily spiral out of control, missing any real business outcomes. While you should encourage creative, out-of-the-box thinking, an innovation program can help you formalise and direct this process to achieve more measurable results.

So make sure to monitor your innovation team's output and measure it against the milestones and deliverables you've set as part of the framework. This way, you can ensure your program stays on track.

Innovation can deliver valuable outcomes that help drive the success of your business. Implementing a specialised innovation program that's aligned to your objectives can help keep business innovation on track to deliver tangible results.

Are you looking for practical support to drive business growth? 

The Entrepreneurs’ Programme delivers advice and grants to enable high-potential businesses to strengthen, grow, innovate and commercialise nationally and globally. 

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