Innovation is a buzzword of today but also an important driver when building of a powerful brand. To avoid getting trapped in the sea of sameness and instead occupy a unique positioning in the mind of customers, a brand need to think and behave differently. That commands courage and a focus on innovation.
Innovation refers to both significant and incremental changes to products, processes or services and the goal of innovation is to solve a problem, improve the existing offer or cover a gap in the market. It is also a well-known fact that innovation and creativity contributes to economic growth. It is therefore not a surprise that a majority of today's companies and CEO's ranks innovation as more important than ever.
Diverse research and rankings of "most innovative companies" frequently have large corporates and technology companies like Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook in the top. No doubt they have all contributed with significant changes to their industries and the world. But innovation means more than just heavy R&D spending and launching a constant flow of new products.
Innovation is about the people, culture and processes in a company. You need to have an environment that inspires people to think, behave and do things differently. Commitment from top management is an important factor for innovation success. Having a leader with bold visions that encourages innovation - like Kun Hee Lee for Samsung or Richard Branson for Virgin - will nurture and inspire the entire organization.
Innovation is also about finding ways to make the world a bit better tomorrow than it is today. Sadly this is something that can get lost when a company becomes too big. Fortunately there are many smaller and medium-sized companies that are veritably inventive and furthermore contribute to make the world a better place. Brands like Patagonia, Solvatten, Landwasher, Square, Revolution Foods, Coursera, Seechange Health, Recyclebank and Össur, just to mention a few. These brands are not only doing good, they are also making significant money.
Do you want to make your brand and organization more innovative? Here are some food for thought.
Start by reviewing your long-term vision and strategic plan. Is it inspiring and bold, does it focus on innovation and change? If not, it is worth spending time to rewrite it and launch internally. Make sure that your vision is exciting and understood by all your people.
What about your leadership and culture? Do you have outstanding, inspiring leaders that encourage people to discover new things and learn from their mistakes? Is your culture dynamic, driven by curiosity and courage? If not, making an overview of your brand values, cultivating your leadership talent and conducting an internal brand engagement program across the entire organization will get you on the right path.
Do you genuinely know your customers? Is customer insights a top priority in your organization and do your employees spend time in the real world together with real customers, envisaging what they truly believe in and aspire for? Today it is not sufficient to congregate extensive amounts of market data or to have an intense media presence. You have to spend quality time interacting with your customers, on their conditions and preferred domains to genuinely understand them and be ahead of the game.
What about your internal working processes? Do they support creativity and novel ideas or are they unduly bureaucratic and static? If the latter is valid, it is time to design some changes and develop advanced processes, tools and principles that will enable efficiency, employee engagement and innovation. Disruption, chaos and lateral thinking are useful tools to challenge old habits and create a cutting edge philosophy.
Is your brand making the world a better place? Does your brand exemplify products and services that truly improve people's lives, health and happiness as well as contributing to a more sustainable environment? Do you have incredibly loyal and satisfied customers? If yes, congratulations! If no, it is time to think about how your brand can do things differently to become a good corporate citizen and make the world a better place. Customers are becoming increasingly demanding, derisive and knowledgeable when it comes to brands and their impact on the world. Building their trust and affection is therefore essential for your long-term success.
The above actions are integral steps you can take to become a more innovative brand and organization.
Yes, it will require considerably time and effort, but if you aim to create a truly thriving brand, it will undeniably be worth it.