By Barb Ward 

When you think about the word innovation, what comes to mind? Making things better? Staying relevant in the marketplace? Meeting performance expectations?

You would be hard-pressed to find a leader that does not think innovation is a critical part of maintaining success for their organization, but as you can see by your own attempt to succinctly define it, innovation is often interpreted differently by individual organizations and even by the different leaders within the organization. This makes finding a consistent definition somewhat elusive.

However, put simply, innovation is about generating new ideas or solutions that will renew or make a process, product, or service better. Sometimes these innovations are for internal processes to make the company run more smoothly. But more often than not, companies are competing to come up with innovations that give them a competitive advantage. To remain at the forefront of their industries, a lot of time and energy is spent on coming up with these ideas, but here is the challenge, to make a difference, these ideas have to be put into action. Truly innovating requires several critical steps:

  • Generating ideas and solutions that solve a real problem for a certain group of people. To be successful, the customer you are targeting must perceive the upgrade as a necessary and valued improvement, or they won’t buy it.
  • Involving a diverse innovation team that brings different perspectives helps ensure all angles are considered when seeking a solution.
  • Allocating the appropriate resources and support to analyze, refine, and implement the solution. While it is easy to come up with ideas, the real success comes from an organization’s efforts to refine these ideas to create a viable and valued solution.

How does your organization encourage and support innovation?

Are there areas that seem like they could especially benefit from innovation?

What steps can you take right now that could impact innovation on your team or in your organization?