Research has identified three broad pillars of innovation that any business needs to put in place too innovate successfully. It is important to plan and prepare for any business to make innovation into a core activity. The three pillars of innovation can help you plan for the development of your business innovation process.
1st Pillar – A Clear Market Strategy Using Technology Development and Knowledge Management
This means of understanding and capturing the dynamics of your target market and your response to this. It defines the product/service portfolio we would like to have in the future and expected returns along with the business development activities that are needed to achieve this. It need not be complex and can be illustrated in a simple ‘road map’ which in practical terms can be represented using a single page.
This is often the area where invention and creativity originates but not necessarily exclusively so. It may not be essential or feasible to own or develop all of the relevant knowledge or technology required to address perceived needs.
You can Gain Access to Technology Solutions Through Alternative Partners
SME’s are often limited in the investment they can make through availability of funds, internal capabilities or intellectual property barriers and it may be necessary and in many cases desirable to gain access to technology solutions through outsourcing R&D, Partnerships, collaborations and technology networks.
It is vital however that ownership of IPR is documented and contractually agreed. A balanced portfolio of technology developments involving some incremental innovation around existing products, technologies and markets lowers risk, gives quicker returns and feedback from the market and is often easier to fund.
2nd Pillar – Implementing an Innovation Process
In a business context, innovation, like a number of other disciplines is a process which must be managed and many organisations implement an Innovation process. These come in all shapes and sizes but generally can be seen as a funnel into which ideas flow with a number of filters that select ideas on the basis of match with strategy, competence, market dynamics and resource availability. Manufacturing companies are often good at implementing innovation processes.
3rd Pillar – Making Sure you Have an Appropriate Organisational Culture
You need to make sure you have an appropriate organisational culture. Many studies have identified empowerment and open communications, customer focus and a willingness to take but manage risk from the CEO down to the shop floor as key.
Manufacturing companies can struggle here because particularly in high volume manufacturing, there is a necessary focus on repeatability and change control and the innovation process needs to facilitate changes in product or process specifications. Key to a successfully culture is to create desire and support for improvement activities, “making tomorrow better than today”
Look at Advances in Technology to see how These can Help
In some cases, advances in the means of manufacture allow product solutions that were not previously feasible. The recent publicity around 3D printing which is founded on rapid prototyping techniques known to many of us for a couple of decades is really coming into its own because of the availability of suitable materials to give acceptable product characteristics. In this case, process innovation is driving product innovation.
CAD CAM, CNC machining advances and material advances have enabled many product solutions which were not previously feasible. Conversely though, product innovation can be constrained by rigorous and highly invested manufacturing processes.
If you would like to learn more about Business Innovation please contact our Business Innovation Specialist: