What Role Does Practicality Play in Innovation?

Innovation is not just an endless succession of blue-sky concepts. 

Person lying down in the grass looking up at the sky.
Brainstorming and even daydreaming may play a role in innovation, but practicality is required to bring innovative ideas to life. 

In fact, if you think about it, innovations quite often make the practical aspects of life better. Banking from your phone is one example of innovation with practical results. While innovations often start with creative thinking that may or may not be grounded in reality, the ones that become reality are those that solve very real problems or satisfy very real needs. 

Innovation isn’t limited to big enterprises with deep pockets, either. In fact, it is often the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that disrupt industries. The key to making innovation work for your organization is encouraging innovation by bringing the most promising ideas to fruition because innovation tends to beget further innovation.

Innovations Don’t Have to Be Revolutionary

Certainly, the most famous innovations tend to be revolutionary. Carrying a phone around with us all the time was an important technological advance of the late 20th and early 21st century. However, not many of us imagined carrying around a smartphone with more computing power than the machines that put a man on the moon half a century ago. Yet we do it every day.

For every iPhone, there are countless innovations that may not get a lot of attention, but that nonetheless make enormous differences in how conveniently we work and live. Great innovations often result from taking new technologies and putting them to specific uses. The people who create YouTube videos that teach us how to paint a room, repair a washing machine, or crochet a scarf are great examples of innovators who thought of great new ways to use existing technologies.

Define What Innovation Means in Your Organization

Innovation means different things to different industries and different things to different players within an industry. Innovation in a law office is going to look significantly different from innovation in a tech startup. To marry practicality to innovation and get results, you must start by defining an innovation strategy that is meaningful to your particular organization. 

Group of colleagues working around desks together.
Innovation means different things to different organizations.

Maybe that means getting services to customers faster than the competition does, or maybe it means having a business model that is unlike that of competitors. Knowing what you want innovation to accomplish gives you a head start in generating ideas, evaluating, prioritizing, and developing them.

A Simple Model for a Practical Innovation Strategy

Business solutions consultant OYG suggests a practical, circular innovation strategy that is adaptable for any industry. It consists of five steps:

  • Think differently. Break out of your existing paradigms and open yourself and your teams up to new ways of thinking and doing.
  • Create a strategy for bringing ideas into practical use. IdeaScale offers tools designed precisely for this process, which involves gathering, evaluating, scoring, prioritizing, and selecting winning ideas.
  • Implement innovations. What good is an innovation strategy if good ideas are simply left to languish? Implementing innovations is where the rubber meets the road.
  • Assess the innovation process. When innovations are implemented, evaluate where roadblocks existed, what could have been done better, and how things can be improved next time around.
  • Rinse and repeat. Remember that there is no endpoint to innovation. The world and all its technologies are constantly changing, and tomorrow’s innovations build on today’s.

Focusing on your organization’s purpose helps you merge practicality and innovation. Purpose-driven organizations, in general, succeed more than those that are just in business to sell products. Being driven by purpose makes you more open to innovation and the practical ways to put it to use. If you’re ready to get started, IdeaScale invites you to request a demo. 

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