Opportunities for leveraging business innovation exist throughout the business cycle. When reviewing many of the models available for planning, development, and the execution of shared ideas there are common components that can be used to build a framework for leveraging business innovation:

  • Engagement,
  • Idea Generation,
  • Validation,
  • Planning, &
  • Execution

These common threads are included in business models shared by traditional brick-n-mortar businesses, tech companies, and new startups. What often distinguishes these different businesses the most is their –

  • Vision,
  • Goals, and
  • Timeline

Each stage in the business model represents an opportunity to innovate. These stages can also be used to distinguish innovative companies from their competitors and thus help to establish best practices for leveraging innovation.

In a previous article it was proposed that captured markets exist that seem to not need adaptive mechanisms in support of innovation to solve their existing needs. Here I would like to build upon that premise by proposing that the captured market is often served with a one size fits all product/service that misses opportunities to innovate.

These captured markets represent a system of stakeholders (and individual funders) that often need a persuasive champion to support innovation before the opportunities to do so can be pursued successfully. The change management field is full of case examples where businesses lacked sufficient motivation to successfully carry out change initiatives. Combined with the lessons learned in more innovative markets we have the following patterns to consider –

In between these two patterns exists an opportunity to engage your stakeholders in the pursuit of a shared vision to both better serve existing customers as well as acquire a larger market share. If market share is not a primary metric for your company (as happens for many nonprofits) these patterns also illuminate an opportunity to continue serving your existing customers after the existing products/services are no longer needed.

Take a look at the (admittedly rather humorous and unsophisticated) comic strip below. How many barriers to innovation (or missed opportunities) can you find below?

What tools or processes would you recommend to improve upon the scenarios just depicted?

The standard planning models (typically 2, 3, and 5 year plans) are potentially outdated for environments that either lack the resources to change or the knowledge that change is urgently needed.

The planning & development structure provided by Lean, Startup, and Agile methodologies offer examples of tools that are well suited for quick discovery, design, and prototyping of products. These also have shared elements that can be used to iterate (or pivot) quickly in a complex service environment. These models include particularly useful strategies for rapidly engaging customers and share a common emphasis on product/service design iteration, continual customer engagement, rapid change processes, and continuous validation mechanisms to insure steps taken are always justified. Continuous learning insures that the teams have the information they need and failure is embraced when leveraged as an opportunity to improve products and services.

If interested many resources are available to further discover these models. The following keyword searches may be helpful and so are included below:

  • Startup principles
  • Customer development model
  • Lean principles
  • Agile methodology

Company culture can be an asset or a liability for the development and use of innovation competencies. This is because company culture often determines the quality of problem solving, communication, teaming, idea generation, systems & protocols used, as well as the quality of staff recruitment and retention efforts (and outcomes).

Some of the best company cultures are both outward and inward facing, with an emphasis on the former. Alignment is never easy but worth the effort if the company’s mission is to stay effective, efficient, sustainable, and competitive.

What tools (or obstacles) does your company face when seeking to align internal and external environments? How is your company leveraging business innovation? Leave your comments below.