Peter Drucker suggest in his book Management Challenges for the 21st Century there are 3 primary functions in business that include management, operations, and innovation.
Few business owners and executives have an innovation plan and fewer set aside time to innovate. When the markets shifts, a more fierce competitor enters the market, or customers have new expectations about product specifications or services a company that lacks innovation becomes more irrelevant over time.
In order to protect your business from outside influencing I would recommend creating an innovation plan to sustain the competitive advantage in the marketplace. Below is how.
Here are 5 steps to creating and innovation plan.
1. Create distinction.
What do customers want that isn’t being offered right now in the marketplace by your competitors? You see the answers posted on forums, hidden in surveys, and in every day conversations. Our job as the business leader is to uncover answers, clearly define the scope, and be able to articulate it to the leadership team for buy in and implementation. Also, create a “What if” scenario that listed all of the possibilities if time, money, or people isn’t an issue. A good book to read on creating a distinctive advantage in the market is Scott McKain’s Create Distinction: What to Do When “Great” Isn’t Good Enough to Grow Your Business.
2. Mind map it out.
Input the main focus of the idea as the central hub on a mind map (make on mindmeister), and branch out the how, who, and when as spokes. For example if your innovation involves improving customer service, then customer service is the hub, and “the how” could be including new ways of receiving feedback, decreasing customer response time by X, and who is responsible for which task or process.
This mind map can now serve as your rough draft to communicate with key leaders and implementers so they can see the vision of your innovation.
3. Carve out time.
If the team’s work schedule is 40 hours per week and you have them working through lunch and rushing from one project to the next then it doesn’t leave any room for thinking creatively on how to innovate.
Schedule at least a half day a week to solely focus on thinking differently as a team.
Ask questions like…
- If we were to do X what would that look like?
- If we didn’t have to do X would we still be ok?
- Since we are doing X right now, how would we different if we did Y instead.
4. Invest in a project management tool
A project management tool will map out who does what, when, and lists the risk associated with each task all in one software program. This way the executive responsible can see from the 30,000 foot level how resources are allocated, when deadlines are supposed to be met, and the correspondence between team members that share their opinions on how the team is progressing towards completion. Basecamp is the simplest project management tool and offers add-ons to allow for advanced reporting features.
5. Test innovation in the marketplace.
Identify a small group of trusted users who support your existing products or services but also aren’t afraid to give honest feedback. These individuals must be heavy users of the type who buy similar products or services to what you offer and are eager to give recommendations on how to improve upon your idea. Posting new ideas to an engage audience on social media also might give you the missing feedback you are looking for too.