There are many ways to innovate. And of course we believe you should grab onto all of them, and innovate as much as possible. Our company is called Innovation Minds, what do you expect we would say?

Oh – before we go further… Happy New Year!

We’re really excited about 2022. We trust that by the time you finish reading this post, you will be too.

The truth is, you should already have been innovating in 2021. In 2020. And as long as you have existed as a company.

But hey, we understand. The past two years have been full of surprises. And not always good ones! It hasn’t been easy to think about doing new things in the face of all the uncertainty.

So….

Here’s the Good News

You already have been innovating, even if you didn’t mean to. Hurray!

And we are quite certain you will continue to innovate even more successfully this year.

Because first of all, by reading this post, you are clarifying for yourself that you are already innovating. Yo are gaining a little more clarity. And that clarity itself will embolden you to innovate more.

You see, it all boils down to…

How We Define Innovation

At Innovation Minds, here’s how we see it. Innovation is any product, method, or activity that uses a new way of approaching an existing problem to try to change a system or a situation.

Every team strives to improve how it functions. That’s innovation. 

Every sales department wants to increase their closing rates. That requires innovation. 

Every employee wants to reach bigger KPIs and feel valued. That takes innovation from both the employee and the manager.

Really everything is innovation unless you are actively trying to maintain the status quo. Even then, accidental innovation often happens, because innovation is hard for human beings to get away from.

There are Infinite Ways to Innovate

Experts agree on at least four basic types of innovation: Breakthrough Innovation, Disruptive Innovation, Incremental Innovation, and Sustaining Innovation.

Of these, only the first two are what many people think of when they think of “innovation.”

Yet Breakthrough and Disruptive Innovations are both extremely rare. They are “moonshots”. Most organizations achieve either of these once or twice at best in the entire life of the company.

A recent study by McKinsey shows that 84% of executives believe innovation is essential for their company. But only 6% feel their innovation programs are effective.

We assert, however, that executives in this study are thinking only about moonshot external innovation. They are overlooking the ongoing impact of incremental and sustaining innovations. They aren’t noticing the ongoing “small” innovations happening in their companies.

Incremental (or Routine) Innovation means improving the product or service, even slightly. And Sustaining Innovation means improving the method of delivering the same product or service. Bringing it to a wider market or delivering it more efficiently.

These are by far more common and in fact are happening almost every day in your organization. Especially if you include internal innovation.

The Overlooked Importance of Internal Innovation

By internal innovation we mean how you work together. Which methodologies and technologies do you use to function?

Internal innovation happens at rates uncountably higher than external innovation, for obvious reasons. Any external innovation requires many, many cycles of internal innovation along the way. And of course the risks are much lower when innovating internally. So leaders are more apt to support it more easily.

On top of that, internal innovations don’t need to pass through as many gatekeepers. Nor must they attain such a high standard of proof before being tried out.

This more relaxed attitude toward internal innovation, however, creates another problem. Yes, teams and companies are internally innovating all the time. But most leaders do not treat these processes as innovation in any serious way. Therefore, they don’t manage these ideas in a structured process the same way they would in developing external innovations.

As a result, employees who offer suggestions of how to make workflows more effective or improve the employee experience may easily feel ignored or that their inputs are not respected. Even though these may be the most important ideas the company has toward success.

Three Great Ways to Innovate in 2022

1. Make Internal Innovation a Serious Goal

Use an Idea Management System to actively gather employee ideas of how to operate better. Share these suggestions openly. Ask your teams which they favor. What further improvements can they offer? Be open to try out suggestions. Iterate them to make them work better.

2. Put Focus on the “Small” Innovations

Incremental and Sustaining Innovations are easier to implement and attain. But there’s more to it than that. Failure to pay attention to these less glamorous activities is at the root of many well-known company bankruptcies. Blackberry, Blockbuster, Polaroid, and many other companies went out of business because they neglected the small innovations. Don’t join that list!

3. Adopt an Attitude of Success

Innovation is not supposed to work all the time. Or even a majority of the time. The benefits from one success can outweigh the impact of a bucketful of failures. You realize now that you’ve been innovating more than you knew. Keep going. Fail forward. Fail often. But fail always knowing you are headed toward success. Again, tracking your progress using an IMS and other transparent communications software can make all the difference.

Would you like to know more about how to empower your organization to innovate as easily as breathing? Reach out to us to start off your year with a bang.

Michael Lee, SVP Strategy and Marketing, Innovation Minds