Why innovation is absolutely “business critical”

This article was originally published by B&T

By Zoe Aitken

March 26, 2020

Right now, we’re all having to make some tough decisions on where and how to spend our time at work for maximum impact. We’re having to decide which work is deemed business-critical and which work can be put on hold until business operations return to ‘normal’. So, where does innovation sit?

One of the most common challenges that our clients face when trying to drive innovation, is that people don’t view it as part of ‘business-as-usual’ (BAU). Instead, they see innovation as stealing valuable resources away from ‘business critical’ priorities and adding to people’s already full workloads.

It’s because of this belief that innovation programs often stall; because people see innovation as ‘extra work’, rather than essential to the day-to-day running of the business. Contrary to popular belief, innovation doesn’t have to be about huge, disruptive, resource-intensive changes. It can also involve much smaller changes to existing products, services or processes that create value in some meaningful way.

In today’s uncertain times, when there is absolutely nothing ‘usual’ about ‘BAU’, we’re all being forced to find new and creative ways to conduct business. Whether that be trying to find new ways to conduct internal meetings, or ways to tweak existing products and services to adapt to our new operating environment. We’re all having to implement changes right now, to adapt quickly and to learn to survive and thrive in what is an entirely new ‘normal’ for the foreseeable future. And this is exactly what innovation is all about.

While it might seem tempting to put your innovation efforts on hold, now more than ever, innovation can play a critical role in helping to navigate through the current environment. It might not be the right time to start any new innovation projects, but innovation can absolutely be applied to find smarter, more value-adding ways of running your existing business.

If you’re attempting to drive innovation in your organisation and are hitting a brick-wall in the current climate, then try to re-frame how people view it, and try some of the following:

  • Run an ideation session amongst employees to help generate ideas for new ways of working in the current environment.
  • Run mini experiments to test different operating and delivery models with your customers. Now is the perfect time to be running experiments as everyone is open to new (and imperfect) solutions.
  • Get close to your customers and understand the challenges they are currently facing and how you might be able to help.
  • Review existing products and services and how they can be optimised to better service the current climate.

Now more than ever, it’s important to keep embedding an innovation-mindset across your business. We’re operating in an ever-evolving environment and change, and adaptation has never been more critical in order to thrive.