Innovation can help keep your company from floundering. But, if you innovate fast, you can change the trajectory of your business and find your organization at the top of your industry. Speed enables your company to catch consumer trends as they emerge and keep your competitors off-balance. When done well, speedy innovation can keep costs down and help you avoid spending a large budget on a mediocre idea.
Assess Your Current Operations
The first step in setting your organization up to innovate fast is to assess your current operations. Start with your research and development team. Can it be more efficient? Survey the team for ways to remove barriers and increase production. Employees who do the work often have the best ideas on how to improve operations. Be sure to listen closely and follow through on the changes you agree to. Otherwise, you’ll face increased skepticism and lower morale in the future.
Next, you’ll want to examine your company’s culture. Do you have a culture of innovation? Do the employees in your organization feel free to share ideas, and do those ideas gain attention and action? Have a system for employees to submit ideas, along with follow-up that supports the process. Again, those on the front lines of daily work often have the best ideas. You can’t dismiss someone’s input and expect to innovate fast and well in your company.
The second step to getting ready to innovate fast is to go lean and remove obstacles. There are many obstacles in most organizations that get in the way of fast innovation.
Evaluate your change process and remove bureaucracy and red tape as much as possible. There’s nothing that stifles the effort to innovate fast more than having multiple hoops to jump through. Determine the key people who truly need to sign off on a change, and remove others from the process. Create systems so that ideas are regularly reviewed rather than being buried on a supervisor’s desk. Most of all, empower people to move forward on small changes without needing multiple levels of approval.
Consider innovating with small teams. While having every stakeholder represented is important, there are ways to incorporate stakeholder feedback while keeping teams small. A large team has a higher tendency to get bogged down in personal issues, accountability problems, and general busyness. Choose a small team if you want to innovate fast.
Ensure that the project leaders and team members have the right experience. Choose people who think outside the box, have experience with innovation, and are open to new ideas. Make sure that you involve key team members and stakeholders from the beginning to mitigate future roadblocks. This may include designers, programmers, and leadership. They should be part of the strategy from the beginning.
Go to Market
The best lessons are learned in the market rather than in the office. Large companies often rely on in-building research and focus groups to determine market opportunities, but the best opportunities come when you get out of the building. This is especially true if you’re creating an entirely new market for your innovation. Get your team to move beyond talking and towards producing, selling, and supporting the new offering.
Don’t let the fact that your new product has limitations stop you from testing it on the market. The reality is that aside from standard safety, the law, and basic features, customers will tell you what is or isn’t important to them so you can address the correct limitations. Many times, the show-stopper in your mind won’t matter to consumers. Instead, you’ll learn that they’re concerned about something you never thought of. Don’t spend thousands of dollars on fixing problems that don’t matter to buyers. Instead, go to market first, and then choose to focus on the feedback you get from customers.
The best way to innovate fast in a large company is to learn from others who have done it. For example, TTI is a world-class leader in quality consumer, professional, and industrial products marketed to the home improvement, repair, and construction industries. To learn how they were able to collect 2,000 new ideas in only four months, click here.