Improving Innovation: Customer Input.
To fuel the innovation engine, companies need to pay extremely close attention to their customers and form strategies based around everything they can possibly learn.
To accomplish this, most organizations spend a chunk on R&D, market research, focus groups and feedback programs, simply to gather insight and suggestions for “potential” innovations.
To survive and remain competitive, regardless of your industry, your company needs to be the first to market with new offerings. That means understanding what your customers are like. Naturally, customers’ needs and wants are ever-changing, but you need to do everything possible and know as much as you can about your users. Earmark the time, money, and people to find out how customers interact with every aspect of your product, service, company, delivery, support, and so on.
And ask their opinions. It sounds rudimentary, but so many companies fail to do it, and make the information they find out actionable. This devotion to the “voice of the customer” could set you apart and become the gamechanger for your business.
Many companies truly want to innovate, but don’t know where to start. It all begins with defining a clear, straight-forward process. If you want success, you simply have to create, implement, and enforce a process for how innovative ideas and projects will flow through your organization from early stage to completion.
Without getting too technical or obtuse in the course of a 300 word blog post, here are some of the general questions you’ll need to be prepared to answer up front:
- How are concepts found or uncovered in your company? How could that be better?
- Who needs to be involved in reviewing and making decisions on “go forward” strategies?
- What are the stages a project or concept must go through to move from development to action? (Make it as few as possible).
- What are the criteria and benchmarks for moving the concept through each of these phases?
- Who are the folks who need to be involved in enforcing the rules and criteria at each various stage?
- What are the approximate costs of each stage and do you have the money earmarked to execute?
- Who is ultimately accountable?
If you can answer most or all of these questions, then you’re starting to fill out the data you need to map the process. Now think of the workflow which a concept must travel through and create a diagram of all of these stages.
If at all possible, it’s highly important to hire employees that have “been there and seen it before”. Before you bring in a consultant to teach you the ways of innovation, see who you already have in your company that are experienced with process. Innovation is no different than any other strategic or functional business process, and needs to be built and managed by folks whose clear strengths are in these areas.
If your company does a lot of talking about innovation, but really isn’t producing measurable results, then you’re definitely in the majority. Chances are what’s missing is either strong leadership or a solid process. The good news is you can easily change both of those things.
Today’s Organizations are isolated geographically. Collaboration and cross fertilization are key to help an organization become successful. For Innovation to happen efficiently there needs to be a means for a group to work together within and across organizational boundaries. There must be an ability to work over the internet and integrate diverse application assets in the innovation process. This can happen with diverse teams representing a wide range of stakeholder interests working both face to face and online.
In a PricewaterhouseCoopers poll, 55 percent of CEO’s in the 427 fastest growing U.S. Businesses innovate through new product development methodologies. Most realize that to become successful, product improvements will not suffice. The article also describes an idea called a ThinkCycle. It’s a shared online space for designers, engineers, domain experts, and stakeholders to discuss exchange and construct ideas towards design solutions in critical problem domains. It’s the new products hitting the market that define success in the 21st century.