Innovation – The 3 Big Mistakes To Avoid

3 big innovation mistakes to avoidIn today’s economic climate the only way to grow your business is via Innovation. If you think otherwise you are either doomed or you have a large pile of cash to burn to see you through to better economic times. If the route you favour is Innovation then there are many pitfalls, however here are 3 of the major mistakes that you might like to avoid.

Innovation Mistake #1 Searching for the ‘Big Fix’

Many of us have done this. We sit with colleagues around a big table and try to find the one solution to all of our problems. This approach is not Innovation but is an extension of the current thinking within a business. Management want to try something new but also to minimise risk but in fact they are increasing this by being over confident in the one solution that they do have. What happens when this approach fails?

Useful (and fruitful) Innovation projects or programmes will have ways of generating multiple ideas which may be tested, combined, modified or even thrown away. They maximise the possibility of creating something new (and successful) by exposing it to many different people, departments or customers. The one possible downside might be cost although even this is not excessive. Failure does not occur since the modification of ideas is part of the process. Many people talk of an Innovation funnel, however it is really a funnel with feedback, a recycling machine!

Innovation Mistake #2 Searching for the ‘Quick Fix’

There is nothing bad in having a ‘Quick Win’, an objective that can be quickly achieved to create confidence and demonstrate success but your Innovation programme should not be a series of  Quick Wins.

Consider a business entering a marketplace for the first time. Competition may very well force the company to buy into (expensive) technology to get up to speed, or to talk to suppliers and customers that are also being courted by competitors. You are now no longer being innovative but have fallen foul of ‘me too’ behaviour. Some blinkered souls may call this best practice but whilst it might earn you a living for a while it is not going to beat off the competition.

In order to beat the competition you need to understand the marketplace, the drivers of cost/technology/business models etc. If you have a new product or service, how long until it is ready to launch, how will you recoup your costs, will the competition be able to copy it? You must plan carefully hence a quick fix is not an option.

Innovation Mistake #3 Searching for the ‘Money Fix’

This does not sound quite right but I wanted 3 mistakes with the word ‘Fix’ in!

A common mistake is to throw money at a particular problem or project and hope that it will generate a winner. The problem is, if that were the case then all your competitors could spend their dollars in exactly the same way. The key thing to remember about Innovation is that depending on exactly the course you follow, you will create something that is not too easy for your competitors to copy.

If you created a new design for a product but manufactured it in a new (cheaper and faster) way then the competition may be able to copy the design but might be baffled as to why your price is cheaper and your quality higher. But how do we do this? Simple we rely more on the things that cannot be copied – the skills, attitudes and behaviours of your staff. So the most important areas to focus on are not securing funding (although you will need some) but securing, motivating and rewarding the right staff.

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