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Innovation, a luxury or necessity?

Must-have?

When I discuss innovation with service providers, they often consider innovation a luxury they cannot afford. In their mind, innovation is about developing fancy new devices, apps, etc and as such not a necessity. While in fact, innovation is simply a means to stay ahead of the curve. For some companies that means developing new devices and apps. However, for most, innovation projects are about more mundane things, such as implementing new software, applying new approaches, or reaching out to new client segments. The ability to innovate – that is, execute these projects successfully – is a skill all companies need because the long term survival of the organization will depend on it.

Staying ahead of the curve

If you have a thriving practice, obviously you want to keep it that way! You will need to know what makes your practice stand out and thrive, so you can make sure to stay on top.

If you don’t have a thriving practice, you will have to make changes, as obviously what you are now doing does not work.

In both cases, you will have to strategize first, to define where you want to go. Your strategy will provide you the direction and the means to get there in terms of time and resource allocation.

Start with your strategy – where do you want to go?

Once you have a strategy in place, acting on this strategy is what innovation is about, so that you don’t only have the plans, but also can deliver upon them.

Making choices is another necessity

While your strategy defines where you want to go, your innovation projects will determine how and if you are going to get there.

Clearly, you cannot take on all new trends, fashions, and whims that fit in your strategy. How to know which opportunity will lead to success? I wish I could tell you!

Instead, let me ask you two questions:

1. What is the best way to determine which opportunities or projects to act upon and invest in?

A. Follow the advice of the most convincing vendor at a conference, and buy his or her new gadget

B. Copy from what successful colleagues at other firms are doing and hope that you will get the same results

C. Follow your gut, and do what you think is best

D. Create diligently a business case for each opportunity, involve your clients, execute a few experiments if necessary, and invest in the best project

2. How do you currently determine which opportunities or projects to act upon and invest in?

A. Follow the advice of the most convincing vendor at a conference, and buy his or her new gadget

B. Copy from what successful colleagues at other firms are doing and hope that you will get the same results

C. Follow your gut, and do what you think is best

D. Create diligently a business case for each opportunity, involve your clients, execute a few experiments if necessary, and invest in the best project

Knowing what to pursue

The answer to the first question is obviously D. You may not like that answer, as it takes time and effort, but it has been proven to lead to more successful outcomes. It will save you from failure and wasting a lot of time, energy, and resources down the road.

Nobody other than your clients can inform you what you should be doing. Therefore, it will take a bit of exploring, to know what works and what will give you the biggest bang for the buck.

If your answer to the second question is anything else than D., you won’t have a reliable process to fall back on when things get tough.

Innovating is the ability to execute and implement your strategy. Therefore it is for all organizations a necessity.

Innovation is a necessity

If things didn’t change, then your company could keep on doing what it’s always done, and there would be no need for innovation.  If markets were stable, if customers were predictable, if competitors didn’t come up with new products and services, and if technology stayed constant, then we could all just keep going as we did yesterday.

However, markets are not stable, customers are completely fickle, and competitors will target your share of the pie if you are successful.

Acting upon ideas and figuring out what is and what is not worth pursuing, that is what innovation is about. That ability is relevant for every organization, whether you are a billion-dollar company like Google, a not-for-profit organization, a small-town service provider in a one-person practice, or one of the big 5 accountancy firms. If you want to stay on top of your profession you will have to innovate.

The choice is to lead or undergo change. Leading change brings considerable advantages while being changed carries a load of negative consequences. As such, there is not much of a choice.  You must innovate and do so successfully to survive in the long run.

To conclude, innovation a necessity. It is not a luxurious yacht to show off to your friends. Instead, it is a lifeboat that will keep your organization afloat when things get tough.

 

 

 

P.S. If you need help with creating a business case for each opportunity, customer discovery, setting up experiments, or identifying the best project to invest in, consider signing up for our online accelerator program. The program is designed to guide (inexperienced) innovators through the innovation process.

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