Many of our customers ask us to develop a strategy and help them draw up a plan, but what we enjoy the most is putting a strategy into practice. A good example is the following: one of our customers, a company that manufactures heating elements, identified “innovation” as one of their strategic pillars for the next five years. But how do you get started?
How do you ensure that your organisation becomes more innovative? One way is to constantly hire consultants to generate new ideas for you. You can also hope that a few of your more clever employees suddenly comes up with the brightest idea ever. But the outcome is not always successful.
Together with our customer we chose an approach that helped them develop innovative capability into their organisation’s climate. To ensure that THEY came up with ideas. Because the biggest challenge is not the lack of ideas, but rather the fact that ideas do not make it to the desk of the right people or that nobody dares to or is capable of doing anything with them. Or they are picked up but not successfully implemented.
Our approach was geared towards raising the enthusiasm of employees to set to work with ideas and to set-up the necessary actions (and in some case avoid some actions) within the company to facilitate innovation. Because where there is a will there is a way!
For example we defined a number of clear criteria to evaluate ideas. We searched for ways of developing a broader network with design schools and experts and to generate a closer involvement with end customers. More emphasis was placed on involving employees in the innovation process and on celebrating successful projects. Finally we kept a close focus on innovation projects until actual market launch and did not stop after development.
During this process we retained a number of principles which I would like to share with you:
- First things first : Think about where you want to be. Then take another look at your strategic plan. Check what worked in the past and what did not, and why. Discuss everything until you are all on the same wavelength. And do not forget to communicate!
- Put innovation on the agenda : Make sure innovation is on the board’s agenda. Not sporadic but continuously. Make sure board members are aligned and share the same expectations.
- Try out things and experiment : Before developing a theoretical process, managing a portfolio and measuring KPI’s you should always take the time to try out things, conduct experiments with end customers and learn from this.
- Engage : Every employee Communicate with everyone about their ideas, realisations … It will amaze that many are already busy with innovation, intentionally or unintentionally. This way you highlight innovation is actually part of everyone’s daily business and does not necessarily bring extra workload.
- Perpetuate : When you have found the right recipe you must transpose it into your new attitude, your new pattern, your new custom. This takes time but ultimately this is what leads to success throughout the entire process.
We also experienced the value of these principles during our support to the Colruyt Group in the development of their new shopping concept called Cru.