Confused about how to innovate in your business , try these 5 steps !

Innovation is the creation of the new or the re-arranging of the old in a new way – Michael Vance

As CEO of EDEL Technology Consulting, it is my role in my dealings with governments and organizations to help them use technology to meet their profit, impact and efficiency goals. One of the most asked question I get in this regard is, ‘How do we innovate?’ in this episode therefore, I share 5 simple strategies to innovating in your business.

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  1. Steal from other industries (Creative Borrowing)

To most people, it feels like a company like UBER, (known to be one of the premium ride- sharing apps) created an unprecedented idea of an on-demand ride sharing environment. In actual sense, UBER leveraged quite a lot on the existing logistics industry, talk of DHL, FedEx, UPS and how they ensure efficiency and transparency in pickup and delivery. UBER then studied and borrowed their system of operation and turned it into what it is today.

Aravind Hospital (eye clinic and non-profit organization in India) has as its main focus, providing low cost solutions for poor income families. When the head doctor was looking for solutions to provide cheap cataract surgeries for his clients, he did not consider what other clinics were doing, rather he chose to turn to McDonald’s business model which has all retail centers having food with a same peculiar taste at a very affordable price. He learned about standardization of process, to ensure that same processes happen in every clinic which included the purchases of items in bulk to reduce cost leading to the eventual reduction of cost of service delivered. The trick with this strategy is to be very clear and distill your problem statement. Also, be aware of the assumptions in your industry. A combination of a clear problem statement and attempt to remove certain assumptions in your industry can bring out solutions that are very different and set your business apart.

  1. Digitize your product/service

This goes beyond putting up your product or service on a website and slapping it with a buy button. What digital in reality does (what most organizations do not realize) is, it opens you to a new range of clients as well as access to new business models. For instance, with digital, you can have a freemium call service, and a better level of premium service for those who desire and are willing to pay for it. E.g. of such will be BIMA in Africa, a mobile insurance company that partnered with Tigo (a telecommunications company). They signed all Tigo users on a freemium insurance scheme, automatically gaining them millions of customers. From there, for clients who wanted a higher level of travel or medical insurance, BIMA made this provision.

Digital enables you a business model that is on-demand such as UBER or a marketplace where buyers and sellers come to exchange goods and your company makes money off the process. The trick to finding the right digital product for your company is to be data- driven, look at the numbers of people using the product. Also, ask yourself the question, ‘What is our business?’ If you are designer, your business is to make clothes that make people feel good about themselves and go out to achieve their goals. Making this clear helps you develop more ideas. In the situation of the designer, with the focus of making people feel good, you can create a concierge service that enables people to find the right clothes that fit them and their body type or job. In this, you are still in the industry but just building a digital product that is different and finding new ways to better serve clients. Digital is amazing and as an organization, you should be willing to look into different ways to digitize your business.

  1. Experiment and test new ideas regularly

You may have 2-3 innovative ideas and not sure of the way to go, for every idea, pick a small subset of the target group and test it out and have this data analyzed. Using this analytics, select where to start from on this innovation journey.

  1. Create relevant partnerships

Red bull according to its marketing taglines ‘gives you wings’ and appeals to the adventurer in you.  GoPro is a tiny camera with which athletes and adventure seekers video their experiences. With an intersection of adventure on customers from both sides, Red Bull and GoPro partnered on a series of events and sponsorships across the world to both grow their brands. They were in different industries but had a partnership because they had a shared customer reach.

BMW and Louis Vuitton share a similar story. Both brands appeal to a class of clients who want luxury and have cash on hand. BMW then built a new car, the BMW i8 and Louis Vuitton in turn, built a set of suitcases and bags that fit perfectly in the bottom back shelve of the BMW. Two products that could be sold separately but through a partnership, gained value.  The trick for this strategy, is to know yourself, the products and services you have and the customers you appeal to, then finally find that best fit partner.

  1. Data is KING

On your journey to innovation, use a lot of data analytics. Through data, you are better able to understand how innovation is affecting your company and the different ways in which you are either expanding or getting worse. On this innovative journey, keep a lot of data, data analytics, talk to our customers, understand their feelings towards your new products, how they are engaging with your new products, and finally what they like and dislike about your new innovations.

Hoping with these simple strategies, innovation moves from being a mystery to finding out how you stand out and can be different from everyone else in your industry and ultimately, instill an innovative culture into your organization.