There is a direct positive relationship between innovation and business vitality. Some businesses are so vital they are not worried about innovation – these are the lucky ones that basically are innovation – they personify it – they are smoking hot. But this is not how it is for most companies. And smoking hot innovation won’t necessarily last forever. Innovation is vital to business concerns, and it merits monitoring and nurturing.
Don’t get lost in the question of ‘what is innovation?’ By nature, there will always be some uniqueness in your company-specific definition. This is the case even though in the commercial world, innovation typically emanates from the people who define and deliver those products or services with irresistible, overpowering, or completely new characteristics – they’re there with the next big thing. Secondarily yet importantly, innovation can come in the form of the ways that winning products and services are developed and delivered. And exceptional leadership has a way of making it all go better faster – in fact, charismatic leaders can play a huge role in fostering innovation. Most simply, innovation is something that brings significant positive change to your customer, however you get that done.
Sometimes innovation gets proactive attention but much of the time it is left in the background until someone sees that whatever innovation they had is drying up, or the business actually starts to falter. Innovation is another of those situations where it can pay to be proactive.
Here’s an important underlying point: innovation is not a proxy for formal product planning. While they can be healthily related, innovation is more art while product planning is more science. You can have product planning in the marketing or pure product sense and never achieve innovation. If you achieve and sustain innovation then product planning probably takes on a different tenor.
One way to get started with innovation is to ensure that it is encouraged and easy to bring forward, and that it is able to be recognized within the company. This needs to be deliberate yet not demonstrate “red tape”. And it has to be more than lip service somewhere along the way – the acceptance and reinforcement of innovation needs to infused and persistent within the culture. Herein lies the source of innovation; it’s in the trust and confidence of your best and brightest people.
And you have to be open minded. Things that were tried and previously didn’t work might now be viable and valuable. Value is a lot of what it’s all about – there’s a direct relationship between the highest innovation and the highest value. Business models are being tuned to actively nurture innovation, because innovation leads to business vitality.