This is the seventh of several ‘Innovation Perspectives‘ articles we will publish this week from multiple authors to get different perspectives on ‘What are three specific actions that a non-innovative company can take to become more innovative?’. Here is the next perspective in the series:
by Mark Prus
Not Innovative? No Problem. Just Apply The Three I’s To Your Business
In the Corporate world, I’ve had the privilege of leading my business unit through numerous strategic planning exercises and innovation processes. I’ve found that the process of becoming innovative can be simplified into what I call the 3 I’s.
INTROSPECTION – Defined as self-examination. Before you can become innovative, you (and your management team) really need to re-examine your business with the intent of understanding what business you are in. As a marketing consultant with over 25 years in the consumer goods industry, I am admittedly biased, but I would suggest you engage a professional who can help you in this endeavor. For example, the basic question of “what business are we in?” can lead you to very different paths for innovation. George Eastman built Kodak into an empire by answering that question correctly. Kodak was not in the business of selling film, cameras or photos. No, Eastman defined all of those as byproducts of his true business: selling memories…memories of family, good times, history, etc. You need to answer similar questions including “who is my target market?”, “what is my unique point of difference?”, “what is the consumer insight upon which I compete?” etc. Until you understand your business at the most fundamental level, you are not ready to innovate.
IMMERSION – Once you have completed the INTROSPECTION exercise, you need to immerse yourself in all aspects of your business, but with a twist. You need to imagine yourself as having just landed on Earth from another solar system and you are trying to learn about your business as if you knew nothing about it at all. So visit your customers and spend hours (days?) with them. Understand how your products fit into their lives. Do a deep dive into the category in which you compete and understand the “up and coming” technologies that impact it. Spend as much time as you can investigating your competition…what makes them special and where are their weaknesses? You get the point. You need to immerse yourself in the business in order to complete your understanding of it.
IDEATION – Now you are ready to start thinking about innovation. Take your management team off-site to a nice place (as nice as you can afford). Relax. Play. Renew friendships. Talk. Share. Ideas will start to emerge from the vast knowledge you have gathered as part of the first two exercises. Eventually hold a few formal sessions where you capture those ideas. Consider using a consultant who can help you ideate and generate thoughts on innovation. If you cannot afford to spend a couple of days away from the office you are not ready to innovate. Do it. You will thank me later.
After you complete the “Three I’s” exercise you should have a renewed understanding of your business, its place in the category, your customer, and potential avenues for innovation. If you do this process correctly, you will have the foundation for development of your strategic plan, marketing plan, and innovation plan. Your management team will be refreshed and engaged in the task. In short, your non-innovative company will have found its wings, and I believe you will have the tools to drive growth in your business for years to come!
You can check out all of the ‘Innovation Perspectives‘ articles from the different contributing authors on ‘What are three specific actions that a non-innovative company can take to become more innovative?’ by clicking the link in this sentence.
Mark Prus is a marketing consultant who offers a name development service called NameFlashSM.