What does innovation mean to you? Is it about improving the customer experience, creating new products or changing how you work with your employees? Following the publication of our latest innovation research, we spoke to Anita Chandraker, PA digital expert, to find out how organisations can align innovation to their core purpose to succeed.
PA: What advice would you give to organisations who want to rethink how they innovate?
Anita: The first thing is to be very clear about why you want to innovate. For example, do you want to make your organisation more efficient, enter new markets or create completely new services for your customers? Being clear on your goal will give you a focus or an ‘anchor’. There are so many shiny new technologies out there that it’s easy to get distracted by a bunch of toys that might feel innovative but which won’t actually support your business.
PA: To succeed, businesses should align innovation to their business goals. How can they achieve this?
Anita: The business goals for innovation have to be defined and then sponsored at the top of an organisation. I’m currently working with an organisation that’s established a whole new team dedicated to innovation – and the leader of that team sits on the executive board. This is great because there’s executive-level accountability for innovation. Another company I work with has very strong sponsorship from the CEO who’s set out a very clear goal. He wants his team to create new digital services alongside traditional services. So there’s a clear mandate that he’s expecting his team to deliver.
The type of approach you take completely depends on your organisation. But one thing I always recommend doing is starting small – focusing in on a specific area or problem. A quick win in this small area can start to get the momentum and excitement going. And it helps people to realise what innovation means for them and what success looks like to them. It makes innovation much more tangible.
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PA: Why does an agile approach work so well when it comes to innovation?
Anita: An agile approach helps prove or disprove ideas quickly – so you can get new concepts to market faster or kill them quickly if they are not going to work. I’ve just been working with a company that wants to create new digital propositions. To help them figure out what these propositions should be, we carried out a ‘time boxed’ exercise over eight weeks to formulate ideas. We started off by coming up with as many ideas as possible and then evaluating them internally and testing them with customers. This meant we had near real time inputs and feedback throughout the entire process. The result? A much quicker route to the best two ideas that our client can now take to pilot phase.
PA: How can organisations ensure they’re ready to scale up their innovation quickly?
Anita: Once you’ve got a good idea, it’s great to go out and test it on a small scale. And to do this, you need to have the right capabilities to scale up the idea. For instance, do you have the right data science capabilities or do you need to find new partners to get your new product or service out to the market?
Attracting new talent is also very important. If you’re a traditional organisation and you need people with digital skills that are in demand, are you going to be able to attract them? It may be that you have to create a new employer brand for yourself to beat the competition.
Our new research reveals 51% of our innovation leaders are very good a scaling up innovation, compared with only 39% of their less successful peers. For practical advice on how to innovate, download our report here. And take our innovation leadership assessment to see how you stack up against our innovation leaders.