Take it from a business speaker and trends expert: More organizations across the world are waking up and realizing that innovation is far simpler than they think. Finding successful ways to adapt to even the most fast-changing and unpredictable markets is key to thriving in tomorrow’s business world. But what’s fascinating is that the more you study the field’s leading innovators across the globe, the more you may be surprised to discover just how simple the process of making an organization scrappier and more resilient can be.
In fact, despite what you often hear in the headlines, as research increasingly shows, while winning with innovation oftentimes seems like it’s about thinking big, more often than not it’s really all about thinking SMALL. In fact, as study after study continues to prove, market leaders don’t have more time, money, or resources to throw at problems. As business speakers and trends experts should be quick to remind you, studies show that these organizations simply provide people with better systems for brainstorming new ideas, chances to speak up and share insights, and taking action when new opportunities and challenges present themselves. Studies also show that the single No. 1 best, most reliable source of successful new ideas is simply listening to customers—a source we can all tap into.
What’s more, findings from the world’s top researchers also continue to demonstrate that evolutionary changes—slight shifts in thinking and strategy—can be every bit as powerful as revolutionary changes as well. So as business leader, it’s important to consider what you can do to help foster a culture of innovation inside any organization. And of course what you can do to help support leadership’s efforts to encourage diversity with regard to tactical approaches, training methods, and the tools you’re using to compete in the marketplace.
What does it mean to innovate? Merriam Webster says that innovation is simply an introduction of something new. It could be a new game-changing product, technology, or service, but it could just as easily be a new market strategy, pricing program, or way to reposition your business.
For example, when Target noticed that revenues were on the decline, and that its current growth strategies may have saturated the market, it didn’t try to grow its profits by opening more giant strip mall outlets. Rather, it decided to think a little more creatively and be a bit more strategic about the battles it fought—so it carefully studied the industry and discovered that major metropolitan areas populated by fast-moving young people on the go were today’s fastest-growing retail markets. So instead of going big or going home, Target did just the opposite of what you’d expect from a giant corporation—like an indie startup, it went small and focused its efforts on launching and promoting pint-sized store prototypes in major cities nationwide instead. These locations don’t just feature products in smaller sizes, they also equip salespeople with mobile scanners so fast-moving urban shoppers can enjoy storewide checkouts, and do lots of business promoting locally-branded merchandise.
This concept, designed to leverage the brand’s cachet in new and novel ways, hasn’t just provided significant gains. It was so successful that Target nearly doubled the number of these stores it launched in just one year. Successful innovating isn’t about having more resources and succeeding in the modern business world, it’s about being ingenious as well.
When prescription counts started falling on the drugstore chain Walgreens, it didn’t bump up ad spending or incentives or change out its product line—instead, the board asked executives to rethink its approach to customer care.
-Bringing pharmacists out from behind the counter to provide more clinical and counseling services
-Building an online “Find a Pharmacist” tool to match customer needs with pharmacist expertise, clinical backgrounds and native languages
-Creating a Pill Reminder mobile app with prescription refill and transfer abilities
-Building API middleware tools that let third-party developers create new ways to let patients order refills at its more than 8000 pharmacies.
In other words, the board effectively outsourced the entire process of innovation. And, instead of trying to identify the next big trend or high-tech breakthrough in health care, Walgreens created a platform for other enterprising businesses to identify these trends and come back with ideas and solutions. It quickly went from losing money one year to posting record returns within the next 24 months.
More business leaders are waking up and realizing innovation isn’t about having more money, more manpower, or more cutting-edge solutions. It’s about consistently being resourceful, adaptable and resilient. As a board, the more you encourage diversity of thought, and the more you encourage the organizations you work with to prize creative thinking and resourcefulness, simpler and more cost-effective you’ll find the process of making an organization more successful and future-proof can be.
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