Why Communication is the Key to Enterprise Innovation

According to Harvard Business School professor Clay Christensen, 95% of all product innovations fail after their release on the market. This statistic points to a major discrepancy between the solutions that businesses are offering and the problems that customers want solved. Too often, today’s innovators are developing new products in a vacuum—isolated from the real world and without consideration of how their buyers will actually use what they’ve devoted their time, labor force and resources to create.

Despite having larger budgets and greater access to customer insights, even established organizations aren’t immune to an unsuccessful innovation strategy. There are plenty of case studies that highlight the demise of household names (Blockbuster, Toy R’ Us and Kodak are a few in recent memory) that were unable to innovate their offerings to meet their customers’ evolving needs.

As opposed to their smaller competitors, established businesses tend to have a more difficult time successfully implementing innovations into their operational practices. Regardless of your industry, shifting your tactics at the organizational level becomes increasingly difficult as you raise the number of people that your company employs.

This begs the question: is there any way for enterprise organizations to avoid becoming a part of that 95% failure rate? For many, the remedy could be deceptively simple: a more unified, clear and transparent strategy for corporate communications.

Communication breakdowns at the enterprise level

More often than not, companies that fail to communicate are simultaneously unsuccessful in their ability to innovate. This is because communication so often is intertwined with employee curiosity, collaborative work cultures and breaking down information silos. It makes sense that people who feel more connected to their colleagues are also more inclined to work in group settings while innovating.

In fact, one study, which mapped the correlation between worker engagement and innovation in a workplace, found that high engagement companies were 23% more likely to have a strong innovative work culture when compared to organizations that reported lower levels of interest at work. Enterprise companies, therefore, that are not capable of creating an adequate communication infrastructure for their teams may see inefficiencies outside of just employee communication, including their ability to originate inventive solutions to the problems your teams are tasked with facing each day.

Once again, the sheer size of enterprise-level operations works against its ability to effectively communicate. Whether you’re in dialogue with coworkers in overseas headquarters or collaborating with external vendors, enterprise communication is no longer as simple as visiting your teammate at their neighboring cubicle. Overcoming lapses caused by time-zone differences, physical distance and even language barriers is crucial to ensure a favorable outcome for both your communications and innovations. Often, this means reevaluating the tools and technology you use to connect your employees across all types of boundaries.

Communication and innovation in the digital era

Just as technology has revitalized our approach to workplace communications, the number of avenues for innovation has increased tenfold thanks to new tools and devices on the market. By exploring how communication-based tech can create a more cohesive workforce, you can ensure that your team is properly equipped with the most up-to-date tactics for generating new ideas and building a scalable innovation culture.

Take cloud-based tools as one example. By allowing its users to host documents, software applications, email inboxes, file storage, analytics integrations and more through a remote server, cloud systems make accessing, updating and sharing your business toolbox easier than ever. Although cloud networks have existed for some time now, recent advancements continue to diversify the ways that companies can use its features for their innovation needs. Tools that use Voice over IP technology, or VoIP, for instance, harness the power of the cloud to house complex phone networks to make voice calls through the internet. This helps off-site employees, freelancers and those traveling for business stay connected and continue to contribute to innovation conversations, even while on the go.

With greater connectivity through the cloud comes another major tech trend, which is projected to permanently reshape the innovation landscape. An exponentially increasing number of electronic devices can access the internet today—everything from your company fridge to the trucks that ship out your products. Devices synced through the Internet of Things network, or IoT, have created a vast web of interconnected devices that allow your technology and your work team to communicate in real-time. For example, sensors on your products may alert your team of defects or issues to avoid delivering a faulty product. Or, you can optimize your workflow with IoT to collect immediate data on the steps of your business process that are the most inefficient. Providing your team with IoT-ready equipment will not only allow them to instantly communicate with one another, but it will also help you pinpoint the exact areas of your business that are in the most critical need of innovation.

Utilizing different communication channels for innovation

No innovation strategy is complete without considering each and every medium in which businesses can communicate with others. In the digital era—where conversing through social media, text messages, and website chat is more common than ever before—organizations must cover multiple communication types to ensure that they are maximizing their innovation potential.

Because tracking and mapping out each communication task is an overwhelming task on its own, consider breaking your approach into two primary channels:

  • Internal communication encompasses all forms of communication within your organization—between departments, deskmates and all hierarchical levels of leadership. In the context of improving your innovation methods, internal communication helps you identify the areas of your business process that your employees feel are the most ineffective
  • External communication pertains to any and all information you share with the outside world, including outside vendors, shareholders, and—most importantly—existing and potential customers. External communication with your buyers, alternatively, gives you key insights on your products or services—including how your customers actually use them and how you can invent new solutions for other obstacles they are looking to solve.

The key to enacting successful policies for both internal and external communication is listening. What problems do your customers want to be solved? What are the areas of your company where employees feel most discouraged? How can you optimize your workforce to deliver a better product at a more competitive price range? Based on your customers’ current needs, are there new areas of the market for you to expand into to continue delivering the best products and services in your industry?

By making communication the driving force behind your innovation team, you’ll ensure that you remain successful not only today but years into the future as well.

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