By Marilly Douni
A brief Introduction to Innovation in a business environment
If I was about to ask you to define innovation, what would you say? What would you actually write?
…It seems that you are still thinking…. Let me help you!
A simple definition is that innovation is a new idea, a new method of doing something, a new product. Some of us, come up with new ideas every single day. However, not all of us are entrepreneurs engaging in new startup ventures and this is not because we don’t have enough ideas to be entrepreneurs but because the concept of innovation must be examined in different contexts in terms of entrepreneurship.
If you ask yourself whether coming up with an innovative idea is easy or not, think of the following: Having a Start Up with no novelty is like riding a bike. Who does not know how to ride a bike? However, having a Start Up that is based on a novelty, is like flying a spaceship or driving a super-fast, expensive fancy Ferrari! Do you know a lot of people who drive such a car? This is exactly what innovation is; something totally new, like entering a new market, launching a new product or introducing a new service. Innovation is a key concept that is not new to the business (and not only) world. Think of Henry Ford or Thomas Edison! However, during the last years Internet has offered a lot concerning the expansion of Innovation due to market speed, the interconnected global economy and the hyper-connectivity of people (and businesses) all of which are enabled by the Internet. These trends have empowered talented people to come up with brilliant entrepreneurial ideas and invest in a variety of sources of innovation focusing on the so-called notion of Start Ups.
In Start Ups, innovation is not merely about a novelty but it is the successful combination of resources available along with imagination plus new ideas that will yield your potential customers’ surprise. Start Ups need the so-called “Innovation Ecosystem”. Innovation Ecosystem is composed of three characteristics: 1. Conceptualization (creation of the initial idea) 2. Experimentation and 3. Commercialization (Marketing). What happens nowadays in Greece is that it is not enough to just have the drive of an entrepreneur and an innovative mind you need to have good business plans and make thorough research. Nowadays, there are a lot of technological tools and concepts that have contributed to the growth of the “Start-Upping” such as: Big Data Management, Broadband/Wireless Mobile Communication, Internet of Things, Social Media and their constant use (thus, constant connectivity), E-business/E-commerce (peer-to-peer platforms) and many more.
How can you apply innovation in action?
However, you may ask…How easy is it to come up with innovative ideas in order to start a Start Up? It is not an easy task and, for sure, innovation is not a concept composed of just one or two strategic “rules”. Below, are some “points/hints” that will help you understand the value of innovation.
Find Your Hidden Paradise
Innovation is a systematic and ongoing journey. Try to find your success formula…Try to find your hidden Paradise among others, or at least create it. That means that you have to identify the one detail that will make you succeed and separate you from the masses!
Can you trace your hidden paradise? – Palm Project Dubai
The concept of innovation is strongly related to the idea of having a diverse market. Stacking in one mindset, will make you monotonic and one-dimensional. Having a diversity of mindsets is the ideal situation since success is not composed of one element only but it is a combination of many! For instance, you can be innovative by following a technology freak mindset, among others.
Is Innovation about Present?
The most difficult question for me to answer is how I imagine myself in about five or ten years. I honestly cannot say! And in fact this is something that makes me anxious! However, in business terms, you have to forget the present and the past and focus on the future. Organize your plans according to your vision…and vision has to do with long-term activities and vital ideas!
Is Innovation Local?
According to journalism, locality is a vital concept because audiences love news that come from their ie neighborhood, job, friends and acquaintances…In a few words, people love locality and are concerned with what is happening next door. However, what is the case in businesses? Innovation and influence do not have boundaries! To limit your idea within specific borders, you limit your future and your potential. So, what do you have to do?
Globalization embraces innovative ideas. Seek international collaborations and find people who will be willing to share your ideas.
Globalization makes your ideas fly from one point to another, from one city or country to another…from one target audience to another!
Be Creative and Innovative
Stand Up and scream: I want innovative Ideas! Do this at least 3 times per day, everyday
Of course, this is not a recipe for ideas to come and find you, but being optimistic is a good start. Then combine the following:
- Think of ideas that will make you different! Find your USP.
- Meet creative people and include them in your team
- Brainstorm! This is the only storm that should not scare you!
- Ask yourself “what would make me happy as a customer?” Do not wait for the need to arise. Create it!
- Talk to experts! They always know how to find your innovative button…and believe me, when they press it, outcomes are more than fruitful!
- Do not hesitate to use SWOT and Mr. Porter! No..they are not your new neighbors! But they can be really valuable friends!
Incentivize your team members to be innovators! It is a common perception that good ideas usually come from people on the front line rather than from managers!…Sorry about that!
A critical question!
Innovation is great! Innovation is needed! However, do all Start Ups rely on innovation? From my point of view, the majority of Start Ups nowadays lack innovative ideas. They tend to “copy” the pre-mentioned “Hidden Paradise” rather than create it. Of course, this may have to do with the financial system/situation of each country. For instance, in Greece, since the beginning of the financial crisis, Start Uppers are “afraid” to bring up THE idea due to three main reasons:
- Risk & Unexpectedness
Who is in favor of “the unexpected”? When it comesto personal relationships, I am Thrilled! Surprises are my favorite! But in terms of business, “the unexpected” may hide a lot of unpleasant situations and innovative ideas are thought to be risky since you do not know if they will lead to success, if they will prove to be necessary, or ifthey will eventually satisfy/meet the audiences’ needs. To implement a new idea, you need to thoroughly research; and research is not a piece of cake! You need resources, money and time! As a result, not all Start Ups rely on innovation due to the high rate of risk in terms of money and time.
- New Business lacks Strength
In the beginning, a business entering a new market lacks strength and its audience is not that interested, meaning that the audience is out there (but does not know you). You have to approach it. For some people inspiring and attracting ideas is more difficult than combing and learning, so today, more and more Start Ups follow a more “conventional” way of entering a new market: They do not introduce a new idea…They introduce new ways to promote/implement existing ideas.
- Limited Resources
For me, the concept of innovation is strongly related to technology. An idea to be innovative must contain high technological traits and be a tech-Challenger. To succeed in that, resources are needed. As beginners, Start Ups have limited resources so cannot be technologically innovative in the real sense that a big company can be. Big companies create new ventures, often in partnerships with others, and attract new talent.
To conclude, the notion of innovation is a milestone in every aspect. In our everyday life, we try to become “innovators”. From a firm’s point of view, innovation is at its core. For a Start Up, though, it is easier to talk about innovation (ideas and proposals) than implement it since technology, resources, time and money are necessary. However, personally, I believe that people must be able to find alternatives, come up with new ideas to challenge the old ones, and never give up. That makes you more effective and efficient…
In the words of Martin Luther King Jr.:
“If you can’t fly, then run,
If you can’t run, then walk,
if you can’t walk, then crawl
but whatever you do,
You have to keep moving forward”
Test Your Innovation Skills by clicking on the below link:
Smith S. A. (2015). You, Unstuck: You Are The Solution To Your Greatest Problem. Broadway, United States of America: Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.
Sweid S. M. (n.d). Tips to Achieve an Innovative and Differentiated Startup Project. Retrieved from http://www.innovationmanagement.se/2015/07/21/tips-to-achieve-an-innovative-and-differentiated-startup-project/
Zwilling M. (2016). Eight Practices to Galvanize Innovation at Your Startup. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/martinzwilling/2016/01/21/8-practices-to-galvanize-innovation-in-your-startup/#3039953e17e1
Charnley B. (2015). Why Are Big Businesses Looking to Start-Ups For Innovation?. Retrieved from https://www.kpmg.com/AU/en/IssuesAndInsights/ArticlesPublications/Documents/big-business-start-ups-innovation.pdf
Green H. (2011). Test Your Innovation IQ. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/work-in-progress/2011/12/06/test-your-innovation-iq/#7a9ea3dd3364
Traditional Business Culture Vs Culture Startup. (n.d.). PowerPoint Presentation
Trapezanoglou V. (2014). The Movement of Start Ups. PowerPoint Presentation