What’s an innovative business?
When we think of an innovative business, we usually think of a start-up that has launched a new product or service that’s unique in the market. But there’s more to innovation than that: An innovative business may, for example, transform its processes to improve productivity or reinvent its business model to adapt to a rapidly changing environment.
An innovative business finds solutions to problems or gives its employees time and space to develop their creativity.
Innovation also occurs when a business automates certain tasks, such as data processing, so that employees can focus on higher value-added tasks. Redesigning manufacturing processes to eliminate wasted time, gain efficiency and save money counts as innovation too.
Why is innovation important to a business?
Innovation has many positive spin-offs for companies. Generally speaking, an innovative business is more likely to prosper, remain competitive and attract or retain staff. But that’s not all. It can also maintain its market share more easily versus its competitors and even win new ones to sustain its growth.
Constantly staying up to date, an innovative business is also better at meeting its clientele’s needs and adapting as they change.
In what areas can a business innovate?
Opportunities for innovation are many and varied, and this applies to the different departments within a business. For simplicity’s sake, we can analyze innovation in terms of the front office (customer services) and the back office (support services) – two terms commonly used to designate the different types of tasks carried out in an organization.
In the front office, companies focus on customer-facing activities, such as products and services. Thinking of a new product that better meets the needs expressed by your customers in terms of performance or ergonomics falls under this type of innovation.
The back office is focused on marketing strategy, technology, human resources, business models, processes and operations. In short, anything that doesn’t directly concern customers. Automating certain stages of a product’s manufacturing process to speed up and improve production is a good example. Developing a business model geared towards e-commerce rather than in-store sales is another.
What are the main stages of innovation?
Want to innovate within your business, but don't know where to begin? Here are the main steps, with examples, to help you successfully realize your goal.
Analyze your business performance
First, you need to take stock of your business performance. If you uncover any shortcomings in your productivity, you could mandate specialists to analyze the situation and make a diagnosis.
Identify innovation needs and opportunities
This analysis enables you to identify areas where innovation can add value. For example, you might determine you need to manage your inventory differently because the raw materials you need aren’t always available, resulting in production and delivery delays.
Develop an action plan
Once a need has been identified, the next step is to draw up an action plan to implement the innovation.
For example, your business may decide that a new software package would enable you to better match inventory availability with customer orders. If this is the case, you’ll need an action plan for its integration and deployment, including training for employees who’ll be using the software.
Get decision-makers on board
If the process is to succeed, you’ll need to get management’s approval. They’re the people who’ll give the green light and release the budget and resources needed for software implementation in the example above.
What resources are available to help you implement innovation?
You’ve gone through all the steps and are now ready to launch your innovation project? That’s great!! But to succeed, you need to surround yourself with the right people because teamwork and collaboration are often the foundation of success.
You can count on many internal and external resources.
Leverage your business culture
When innovation is embedded in your organizational culture, it becomes easier to implement. You can create partnerships at the ground level to deploy your innovation project. Internal ambassadors, for example, test the proposed innovation and then promote it among their coworkers.
Look to other companies for inspiration
Many organizations have or are in the process of deploying innovative solutions. Why not draw on their experience? There are various business groups, forums and associations where you can talk to other business owners about innovation.
Finance your innovation
There are many ways to finance an innovation project: partnerships with commercial or research institutes, accelerators, incubators, grants, funds, tax credits, etc.
Call on external experts
Don’t have all the expertise you need within your business? This is often the case, so don’t hesitate to ask for input from outside experts to help you realize your project. You can also contact your bank, who’ll guide you through the various financial aspects.
Want to start innovating? Find out how National Bank can help you with your projects.