In this competitive business world, innovation is the key to staying ahead of the curve. While innovation involves finding a new solution to an existing problem, it does not have to be about using advanced technology or producing a new product. It can be about innovating processes within your business or services offered to customers. For instance, as a business transcription company, we often transcribe proceedings of meetings and conferences organized in innovative formats such as Flipped Learning, the Long Table, Experimental Learning, Hackathons, “Dare-to-ask” Sessions, and more. Experience shows that successful businesses are ones that constantly evolve and find new ways to solve problems and meet the changing needs of their clients. Here are some expert strategies to build innovation into your business:
- Build an innovative team: A diverse workforce can help your business become more innovative and successful. But though every business needs “out-of-the-box” employees, it’s not easy to find a version of Larry Page or Steve Jobs. Strive to recruit people who can bring a fresh outlook into your business. Beyond basic qualifications and experience, qualities to look for during interviews include signs of diversity, unusual educational qualifications, leisure activities, and hobbies. Group interviews are a great way to evaluate candidates’ innovativeness. Use social media to scout for talent, and attend and host job fairs.
- Adopt new technology: Invest in technology that can enhance your competitiveness. Digital technology has opened up new opportunities for businesses of all sizes. Electronic invoicing, mobile payment options, crowdsourcing, social networking, online stores, and moving paper-based systems to the cloud are some of the innovations that are transforming small businesses. An MIT survey found that investment in video technology fuels innovation and also improved team collaboration and productivity. The internet of things (IoT) and embracing mobile technologies to enhance network can boost supply-chain efficiencies. Amazon, GE, Google and Salesforce are great examples of organizations that have built innovative global teams.
- Keep building a set of seed ideas: An article in the Entrepreneur recommends that every company should keep a list of “seed” ideas. These seeds could be customer concerns, unmet needs, requests for new features in products or services, and market and industry trends. Such seeds can help initiate group or individual brainstorming sessions and lead to ideas for new products and services.
- Take risks: Innovation requires taking risks, though this is easier said than done. A 2016 Forbes article recommends taking ‘smart’ risks, which means marking the “safe zone” for innovation. For instance, one company encouraged “discovery risk” to develop new solutions for customer concerns, but made it clear that there should be minimal “execution risk” as regards customer commitments and financial results. In short, your team needs to know the areas where innovation is encouraged, and where it is not. Richard Branson and Elon Musk have earned their rank among the top entrepreneurial risk takers.
- Embrace feedback from customers, suppliers and other stakeholders: Customers can help drive innovation, and Deloitte says that more and more firms are putting the customer at the heart of their innovation efforts. For instance, besides focus groups, they are using social media and other technology to get consumer input earlier than ever in the product development lifecycle. If customer ideas can be turned into innovative products it can go a long way in building loyalty and engagement in the competitive marketplace. In a web chat with the Telegraph, Lynda Hart, head of IT, Volvo, said that for their new car, the XC40, teams of designers travelled across the globe and lived with families with similar vehicles to really understand how they use a car today! Companies can also work with suppliers to improve the competitiveness of their products in terms of cost and quality.
- Focus on continuous improvement: Your innovation program needs to continually evolve and adapt to meet the needs of your company at any specific time. As an article from the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) notes, there is no magic bullet. Focusing on continual incremental improvement is critical for developing an innovative mindset.
- Educate yourself: Education fosters innovation. Attend business conferences and seminars in your field. Exposure to a variety of points of view is important to keep pace with new ideas, best practices and trends that can spark inspiration.
All of these strategies can encourage innovation from the inside. A recent article in the Telegraph recommends outsourcing to bring in innovative ideas from the outside. In addition to developmental processes, businesses can outsource meetings transcription, conference call transcription, and more. Partnering with technologically advanced business transcription agencies and other innovative businesses is a great way of ushering in efficiency in internal processes and completing project quickly and efficiently.