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Strategic Planning: Understand Your Innovation Processes

Another step in reviewing your processes involves taking a look at your creativity. If you’re not innovating, you’re dead. (At least that seems to be the general consensus of the business community!)

Without innovation, anyone can imitate what you’re offering after a period of time. Also, business gets pretty boring if you have the same old stuff. Busting out of the old mold keeps things exciting and employees engaged. Here are the four procedures necessary to make innovation part of your business:

  • Identify market opportunities for new products or services. How effective are you at anticipating customer needs and uncovering new opportunities? What are your customers telling your employees (who speak with your customers most often) about their needs?

  • Manage the ideas in your innovation pipeline. Are you effectively choosing the right products and services to potentially move into full development?

  • Design and develop the new products and services that are worthy and that leverage your capabilities. Are you efficiently moving products and services through the development stages by reducing time and costs? Or do new products languish until they become stale?

  • Bring the new products and services to market. Are you efficiently getting your new product or service in front of your current customers? Do they know about all the offerings you have? What’s the time to market for your new products, and how will they sell the first year?

How do you know if you’re efficient and effective at innovating in general? Your new products and services sell. That’s the metric for all the preceding processes.

“Pound for pound, the most innovative company in America is W.L. Gore & Associates,” according to Fast Company, a well-respected monthly business publication. W.L. Gore is known for its premier brand Gore-Tex, as well as other innovative solutions for the electronics, medical, and fabric industries. How does W.L. Gore do it? It operates on five key philosophies that dictate how the company is run:

  • Work in small teams. With small groups, the company is able to respond and innovate quickly.

  • Don’t establish rank. Instead of a rigid chain of command, which can delay decision making, the company eliminated rank. All employees are equal.

  • Everyone can lead. Without rank, every employee has the opportunity to be a leader.

  • Take the long view. Great innovations can sometimes take years, not months. By recognizing this time frame, the company doesn’t demand results for quarterly shareholder reports.

  • Celebrate failure. Success requires failure. By celebrating failure, the company encourages employees to test every new idea because you never know which one may be a runaway success.

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