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6 crucial factors for successful innovation
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Andries Reymer 1
Strategy & Innovation

6 crucial factors for successful innovation

In a rapidly evolving world, companies must innovate to survive. Simply delivering products or services is no longer enough, and successful innovation does not come naturally. More than that: 80% of innovations fail. Andries Reymer and his fellow experts provide crucial insights into how to go from defining the innovation strategy to selling your product or service(s). By addressing the following 6 factors, your business will succeed.
by Andries Reymer | April 13, 2018
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Andries Reymer 1

1. Make sure innovation is embedded in your company's vision and strategy

Strategy is a collection of thoughtful decisions designed to ensure that your company achieves certain goals. It describes how the various departments (marketing, IT, finance, operations, R&D, etc.) should work together toward these goals. Usually, efforts around innovation are not sufficiently aligned with this business strategy. If there is an innovation strategy at all, it is often based on what is already there. Then again, you don't start making a grocery list after you get from the store, do you?

Without a clear, integrated innovation strategy, innovation in your company becomes a mishmash of different initiatives and best practices (crowdsourcing, autonomous teams, external partnerships, corporate venturing, etc.) for which it is not clear how they contribute to value creation and the achievement of business goals. Without an innovation strategy, you run the risk that different departments will have conflicting priorities, resulting in a failure to integrate different perspectives and exploit the strength of this diversity.

- Robin De Cock

2. Create a corporate culture that encourages innovation

A culture that encourages innovation gives oxygen to your employees, so don't brick away their work time. Create space for cocreation and encourage the exchange of innovation ideas. Because innovation does not come from outside, but is initiated by the employees themselves.

So select your employees for this quality and reward them for it. Talent management is paramount. People must be deployed from their strengths. They must be challenged. However, the balance must not tip over. The organizational context always determines the innovation framework and the margins of freedom that employees can be given. Innovation puts people in their power so that organizations can also grow.

- Peggy De Prins

3. Examine whether existing processes support your goals

If you want to innovate successfully, you need an integral innovation process that is both highly collaborative and guiding. On the one hand, you need to involve all stakeholders in the innovation process to create buy-in and to pursue a common goal. On the other hand, a limited group must make the crucial decisions so that it doesn't go on forever if there are disagreements.

With a structured, documented and facilitated innovation process, you can ensure that both removing frictions and creating added value with internal and external stakeholders are structurally embedded in your organization. How many people assume that innovation starts with the search for new ideas? This while idea generation only comes into play in the middle of the process.

- Philippe Martens

4. Have different departments work together on innovation projects

Without efficiency no innovation, without exploitation no exploration. The intertwining of exploitation and exploration is increasingly seen as the success factor for organizations. But how do you organize? Establishing an "innovation cell" does not necessarily lead to innovation. Furthermore, too strict a separation of exploitation and exploration can lead to a conflict within organizations, one that can culminate in an "innovation procession of Echternach."

A better approach is: 'Together We Achieve More': create a supportive context that combines the various exploitation and exploration insights in one team. Successful innovation requires different perspectives and is based on input from different departments. Sales leaders hear the daily needs of customers, marketing sees opportunities to use new distribution channels, R&D sees new technological opportunities, etc. Create the right context for exploitation as well as exploration.

- Nele Cannaerts

5. Research what your customer needs and what they are willing to pay for it

Many innovation processes start from the different features a product can have. Here lies the danger of launching a high-quality product that is too extensive and too expensive for those who need it or does not have the right features for those who can afford them. To best match your product to the real needs of your customer, you need to research what they are willing to pay for certain features.

You do this by closely involving your customer in your innovation process, through a user survey, for example. This often reveals elements that your company previously classified as 'unimportant'. During this user research you can also sound out the amount the customer is willing to pay if you would omit or add certain features. This gives you a first guideline to work with.

- Andries Reymer

6. Create inspiring "space" for your employees

There are several ways to create space for your employees: mental, physical and financial. You create mental space by not filling employees' work schedules 100% with exploitation-oriented tasks. Your employees should be given time to learn about new technologies and new markets, to engage with interesting stakeholders, observe interesting actions, etc. Ideally, a physical space is also available to support this.

In addition, provide a budget that employees can use to visit trade shows or make purchases to try things out, for example. These resources can be classified as an investment cost from the preconceived vision. Anything invested in them will lead to smarter employees. And it is these, smarter employees, who ultimately realize innovation.

- Andries Reymer

So, get started with these 6 elements....

1. Vision & strategy
2. Culture
3. Process
4. Team
5. User Centered Design
6. Inspiration

...And make a success of your innovation projects.

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