Innovation drives organisations, providing a foundation for development, progress and growth.
Every business is innovate the beginning of its journey, driven by the trial and error that is an inevitable part of the startup phase. Startup founders and leaders tend to be growth and innovation focused, and less concerned with the risk of failure than the leaders of more established businesses.
Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and renowned innovator, said:
“Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.” source
When a business is established, innovation can become less central. It is perhaps inevitable that moving out of the startup phase to a place of greater comfort and security can lead to the innovation seeming less important than it once did.
Innovation as the forerunner of digital excellence
Innovation, digital excellence and growth are interrelated parts of a single whole.
Don’t think just in terms of developing a culture of innovation.
Don’t work purely towards digital excellence.
Don’t think only of growth.
Develop a single strategy that will drive all three together.
Here’s how to do it.
Step 1: Define your vision of digital excellence
Many businesses have a vision statement somewhere on their website and printed in each annual report. Very often, few people will read it and still fewer will act on it.
To define your digital vision, you need to begin with your wider vision. This can be a difficult process, especially in larger organisations, as departments might have conflicting interests and priorities. Revisiting and refining your vision statement is a vital step in building an effective digital strategy. Those businesses that fail to do so often find it difficult to execute their strategy effectively, as it lacks direction, and it may not become clear where the strategy is lacking until the implementation phase.
Larger organisations can lose customer focus over time, and lack clarity on their audience and message. Services and products inevitably change along with growth, and this naturally impacts how your vision is defined.
Once you have a clear, relevant and organisational vision, you can make it more focused and create: a vision for digital excellence. Consider what your vision means for digital transformation and how innovation can drive it.
Step Two: Develop a digital innovation strategy
Your digital innovation strategy should provide a framework for cultural and practical transformation.
Begin by identifying what you do now. What are you currently doing digitally that you will need to change? You will probably want to include:
- Digital marketing
- Data collection
- Data analytics
- Data integration
- Digital products
- Customer relationship management
Think carefully about what you’re doing in each area and identify the details in each case. Consider how each of these areas is currently contributing to your digital vision. It’s likely that you’ll be falling short in some, if not all areas. This is not a problem at this stage, as the aim of this process is to fill the gaps that you find.
Where there are gaps, think not just about why they are there but what steps you can take to close them through innovation. Where are the opportunities for deeper thought, greater progress and more decisive leadership? Where can junior staff contribute their thoughts and experiences alongside senior colleagues? How are your customers’ thoughts and experiences factored into your decision-making?
Established businesses often have particular ways of doing things, taking decisions in certain ways because it’s easy, or ‘the way it’s always been’. Be careful not to fall into that trap as this too can damage innovation.
Step 3: Invest in training and development
It is one thing to invite all your employees to contribute to digital innovation. It’s another to make sure that they are genuinely able to take an active part in your digital innovation culture. But it’s essential that they can, because top-down cultures are rarely genuinely innovative.
All your employees should understand what you mean by innovation and digital excellence and have a clear knowledge of their individual contribution. However, it is likely that some individuals and teams will differ in their focus.
Your marketing team, for example, will naturally be focused on innovation and excellence in digital marketing and you will, naturally, seek to encourage that. While looking to develop inherent strengths, it is important to avoid inadvertently encouraging silo working, which generally inhibits innovation. Find ways for individuals to develop their own interests and to contribute to the work of other teams. It may be that some will make a sideways move, or they may perhaps simply be a valuable observer and dispassionate voice.
Beginning your journey into digital innovation
The process of developing a culture of digital innovation is often uncomfortable, but it is essential to the development of a thriving organisation.
If you’d like support on your digital innovation journey, get in touch.