By Jock Purtle, founder of Digital Exits
Sustained innovation is the secret to prolonged success in business. It’s one thing to have one new idea, but it’s quite another to constantly be at the forefront of an industry. This is why we see such frequent change in the business world, and it’s also why we look at companies who have remained at the top for some time with considerable awe. But in today’s fast-paced world, staying innovative requires a full-time approach.
Every year, new developments push us in different directions, so it’s important to stay ahead of trends and foster cultures that are conducive to innovation. So as 2018 winds down and we get ready to flip the calendar to 2019, here are 5 things (and a bonus one) you can do to help you remain innovative.
1. Invest In Digital Talent
The teams you put together are going to have a big impact on your company’s ability to innovate. And as we move further along in the digital revolution, it’s now more important than ever to have good digital talent as a part of your organization. But our understanding of digital talent is changing a little. It doesn’t only refer to one’s technical capabilities. Now, it needs to be understood as someone’s ability to put these technical skills to work. In other words, what can they do with their digital talent?
Being able to make use of your digital talent requires a strong understanding of what makes business success and also what makes innovation happen.And to stay innovative in 2019 and beyond, it’s important you have some of these people working for your company.
Not only will they help you better leverage the changes in technology we’ve seen over the years, but they will be better at finding people who can help make their vision a reality, effectively recruiting more talent for you. However, good digital talent knows they are in high demand. As such, you need to work to make your company an attractive place of employment. Consider working with a specialized benefits firm to help you put together competitive compensation packages that will lure tomorrow’s top talent to apply for your open positions.
2. Embrace Big Data
It feels like we’ve been talking about Big Data for a while now. But the reason we’ve just been talking about it and not doing anything with it is that few have found out exactly how to use it to their advantage. To stay innovative in the years to come, it’s important you figure out a way to make use of the massive amount of information out there about your target audiences.
Whether it’s social data, spending habits or personal preferences, there is data out there that can help you understand more about those you’re targeting and how to develop strategies that will reach them more effectively. Start looking for people who have experience making data work for them, and start considering different software options that could help you better track and organize customer behaviors and perceptions. Giving yourself access to this information will put you in a great position to remain innovative as we move into 2019.
3. Encourage Flexibility and Collaboration
Innovation happens when people feel free to contribute new ideas, try out new things and share what’s on their mind. And this type of environment only exists if you make an effort to create it and maintain it. As a result, to stay innovative in 2019, you’ll want to start looking at your company culture to figure out where you could improve in terms of flexibility and collaboration.
This might mean rearranging some of your teams so that you can get a better group dynamic, or it could mean simply redoing the way you conduct brainstorming sessions so that more people can get involved in the innovative process. In the end, to stay innovative no matter what year it is, you need to build a company culture that fosters innovation, otherwise any innovative push you get will be short-lived and unproductive.
In other words, innovation needs to be everyone’s job, a fact more and more managers are beginning to accept. Start looking at where you could improve so that you can set yourself up for innovative success in the years to come.
4. Implementing Idea Management Systems
While it’s important to be flexible and encourage participation, it’s also important to have systems in place for this to happen. These are known as “idea management” systems, and they are designed to not only encourage a culture of innovation, but also to make sure the innovative ideas people come up with make it to the right people, increasing the chances that those which stand to have an impact are implemented as soon as possible.
These systems usually consist of a way for employees to contribute their ideas. Today’s most effective idea management systems are cloud based and interactive, making it easy for people to contribute an idea whenever they have it.
The software then sorts these ideas based on keywords, meaning they can be filtered by topic, department, objective, etc. This gives leadership an accurate snapshot of the various ideas employees have about how to make things better. It also makes it easier for them to source solutions to company problems from those who are dealing with them on a daily basis, taking advantage of the organization’s collective intelligence, and also boosting engagement by showing people they have an impact on how the business is run.
Casting a wider net when collaborating by using idea management solutions means a greater diversity of ideas and perspectives. So while collaboration has always been an important part of innovation, to stay innovative in 2019, you need to find a better ways of including your employees in the innovation process.
5. Embrace Change and Encourage Failure
Along similar lines, it’s important to take a look at how well your management team is set up to encourage innovation. To push your company forward, you really need to get yourself comfortable with change and failure. No one has the answers, and the only real way to figure out what works is to try a bunch of things and see which one is best. As a result, start taking a look at how well your leadership team embraces change.
If you find that many managers are shying away from trying new things for fear of failure, then it might be good to invest in some training that will help them get more comfortable with the chaotic nature of innovation. But you’ll also need to look at how you incentivize innovation. Rewarding managers who embrace this aspect of the company will demonstrate to others that this is the type of management culture you want, something that can help shift the focus away from the status quo and toward a more dynamic spirit of innovation.
5 (+1). You’re Never There
The most important thing to remember is that there is no final destination. Your company will never reach some peak innovative state that all it has to do is maintain. That goes against everything we have said about constant change and the need to embrace it. So while these ideas will help you stay innovative in 2019, know that each year will come with its own unique set of challenges for which you need to come up with a unique set of solutions.
Taking into account these 5 (+1) points, you’ll be well on your way to not just remaining innovative, but actually being it.
Jock Purtle is the founder of Digital Exits, an online brokerage service specializing in the buying/selling and appraisal of online businesses. Considered an industry leader and expert on high-growth companies, business valuations, and business and website brokerage, he consults with business owners to help them grow and plan their exit strategy. He has been featured and quoted in publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, Inc.com, Wired and CBS News.