When you hear or see the term innovation, what does it make you think of next? Is it a start-up, a product, a large corporate — or something else?
The term innovation is overused so much in today’s business world that I am getting tired of reading about it. People have included the word on their LinkedIn profiles “…I am an innovative individual…’’
Are you, really? What have you done that proves this statement? What new business venture have you started, or new product did you invent?
I am not saying that people can’t be innovative. You see it all the time across the business community, but what does real innovation actually look like?
Entrepreneurs across the UK are often seen as innovative. As an example, take Richard Branson and the Virgin brand — clearly he is seen as an innovator, but what drives him to innovate and how can you become an innovator?
What is innovation?
There is a famous quote by Einstein — “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” When Einstein said this he was seen as a leading innovative thinker — thinking differently about physics and introducing new ideas and challenging the normality of society.
The reason why Virgin, as a brand, has been so successful is due to Branson’s attention to what the customer wants. Whether you travel on a Virgin train or fly on a Virgin aircraft and now bank with Virgin Money you will notice that it is a different experience. Richard Branson quoted that he only starts a business if it will improve people’s lives — thinking how to do the same thing differently.
The other great innovator is of course the late Steve Jobs — his attention to perfection has been widely acknowledged, criticized and praised by the industry. But Apple innovated in a different way. Apple is the acknowledged market makers and brand makers in the consumer electronics sector.
Apple defined the smartphone era we now find ourselves in today, through the introduction of a re-imagined mobile phone product. They have transformed the digital music industry, through changing the way people consume their audio entertainment. Even when you walk into an Apple store, similar to the Virgin experience, it is different — it’s perceived to be better than other similar retail experiences.
How can you become an innovator?
Have you ever thought to yourself, why are things done like that but didn’t really have the confidence to speak-up and ask for an explanation? I know I have, and it has only been in the latter part of my career that I have started asking the tough questions, while trying to challenge the normality and break out of the legacy mold.
Many people believe that the only way to become an innovator is to join a start-up, which is not ideal for everyone — especially if you have family commitments. However, you can be an innovator within your current organisation — this practice has been dubbed as an Intrapreneur.
I challenge you to look around your current organization. Can you see things that are not working well or things that could be greatly improved? My assumption is a resounding yes, as no organisation is perfect. How could you improve this scenario? Tell someone about it — the best way to build accountability to your findings is by sharing. Wondering and asking, do others feel the same?
The final step is to take action — approach your manager, share you findings and your ideas — innovators are not people who find fault, but people who seek solutions to these problems. Seeing people taking part in a hack-a-thon really epitomizes this role — they identify a problem and seek to find a resolution.
Please consider my point of view, and then comment on what you believe innovation is about. Do you have a favorite example of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) creativity in action? Did that innovation have a socioeconomic impact?