Have you experienced that looking at something in new ways can get harder the better you know how to do it? This is true in all aspects of life – both on a personal and a professional level. Established companies therefore often struggle with looking at their business or industry with a new set of eyes. When facing a world in digital change, this quickly becomes a serious threat. Short-term, companies can lean on external help to address the digital change, but longterm they need to embrace innovation from within to survive.
I´ve put together some key insights to bring inspiration and get companies going on their first steps towards building innovation from within capabilities – I hope you find them useful.
Business Case Example
As part of the Oslo Innovation Week, which was organized a couple of weeks ago here in Oslo, I wrote about planning to go to an event on innovation from within organizations. The event had a very interesting case from an international bank who shared their experiences from building innovation from within capabilities.
Basically, the setting was this – one of Europe´s largest banks addressed innovation from within from a smaller market. It was the local department who took their own initiative based on a concrete business goal they developed as they recognized a market opportunity they wanted to act on. They took a business concept, adopted it and developed their own digital solution, and launched it in a small market (Norway). The solution gained traction among customers, and the bank moved from being an industry contender to becoming the market leader in this specific area. Now, the team behind the solution is presenting the result to the European management team, as the company is looking to take the solution to other markets.
Business Goals Leading the Way
So a specific, local business unit took the lead of the innovation project described above. It is an ideal example of how innovation within a big business can take place in one specific market, and be adopted in a larger scale afterwards. Piloting a solution for a specific market or business area is particularly good due to two things:
- Short time to market: an idea goes live towards real users fast
- Minimize risk: lower investments and less exposure in case project goes bad
Most companies have already experienced that their world has been impacted by digital changes in one way or another. At the same time, technology has become a lot more accessible (due to cloud computing, open APIs, etc allowing for the combination of off-the-shelf technology with customized solutions) over the past few years. Therefore, companies only need to define a concrete business opportunity and then develop/adjust a solution that supports it, to get started. As the bank did – they had a tight brief on what the business unit wanted to attain commercially, so that the people in charge of developing the solution had concrete guidelines to go by. The business unit and the business goal need to guide the way!
Building Culture for Innovation
How can you ensure that innovation grows within your business? Many larger organizations are adopting start-up principles and mindsets these days to answer this question. The bank I saw at the event gave the following advice:
- Open mindset: ensure there is an open mindset to new things and that this culture is vivid in the team that is doing the innovation – they should challenge, seize opportunities, be willing to fail and learn from it. (NB – CZ: If this culture does not live within your organization, you could consider secluding the innovation team from the rest of the organization for the project duration.)
- Will to concede: it should be okay to think something, test it out, and move in another direction and realize that what one thought was right, is not so anymore.
- Framework in place: establish a framework the organization can work from. (NB – CZ: This is particularly important if you want to work methodically to build a culture for innovation across the organization, and not only in one team.)
- Right energy level: ensure to keep up the energy level and have stayer capabilities to endure the long-run.
At last, I´d like to share a fun fact that was presented at the event by Emily Hoole from the Center for Creative Leadership.
If innovation was a race with 20 cars:
- 19 drivers would want to win
- 17 of them would go in the wrong direction slowly and stop before the race was over… if they stopped at all
I hope this article heightened your chances of being the driver who wins the innovation race. Remember – as with most new things in life, dividing them into smaller pieces so you can move step by step, often make them more accessible!