How organisations can learn from disruptive innovators

Innovation has changed all markets and sectors, shifted us to an ‘always-on’ culture, and placed new-entrants and competitors at the centre of an environment where constant evolution is the norm. With such a backdrop of change and disruption, how can traditional organisations react and compete?

Businesses wishing to replicate this kind of success need to ask themselves some key questions:

1. What was the crux of the innovators’ success?
2. How did they cultivate and nurture these beginnings?
3. What technology helped them to achieve their goals? And what were their methods?
4. How did they execute their strategy?

No business should assume that if they replicated these processes it will bring them similar rewards. Businesses should learn from the innovators, then take these lessons on board as they attempt to navigate their own path. Transformation will be more successful if a business understands what’s best for its customers, then uses that to set a pathway to achieving its goals.

Once a business understands what drove the success of competitors, and what the likely challenges could be for them, they will be better placed to develop strategies that use this insight, which will then in turn delight customers.

Of course, adopting new ways of working can be high risk without experienced people to implement changes. An organisation looking at new ways of working needs to hire, or consult, with people who have released similar programmes and can help bring about change.

Innovation is about doing things differently, it can’t be forced. As such, organisations will need to create an environment that values the exploring of new ideas and where failure is part of their learning processes, rather than an admission of defeat.

So, what are the likely challenges organisations must overcome?

  • Innovation will need investment. And, with the nature of innovation meaning the outcomes aren’t necessarily clear or guaranteed, this may pose a challenge for securing stakeholder commitment – or make it harder to get
  • You might need new skills to drive this strategy
  • Regulations are changing, and new ones are coming into play. As such, interpreting and adhering to regulations will need careful consideration
  • Cost efficiencies and savings are a constant battle for business. Moving forwards you will need to understand how any new system investment or technology will help achieve better customer outcomes, being vigilant and focussed on cost savings at the same time.
  • With so much technology now available understanding the right technology for the need may not be easy
  • Building a business case for the investment. You will need to submit a business case, with budget, in order to move forward on any project. Getting the breadth of buy in from the business may be a challenge. In some cases it is as much about changing a culture as it is about new technology or process

The final piece of the jigsaw, however, is to listen properly – and without prejudice. What are your customers saying? What are people in your organisation saying? What do partner businesses say? Understanding these three angles will help you to devise a plan that responds to the needs of customers. Like my Grandmother said; “God gave you two ears and one mouth, use them in proportion.”

By listening in a smart way, organisations can start to generate new and radical ideas. When these ideas emerge, it’s vital that unfamiliar notions or unfamiliar channels for new thinking aren’t dismissed immediately. They could well be the tools needed to make change happen. After all, they do things differently and that is why, in many cases, they are unfamiliar. They can be your point of difference. In addition, they could make better decisions and better methods of engaging with your customers. And they needn’t be transformational. They could well just enable a change in process that is preventing you from being able to innovate.

Building a new way of working can be as much about changing the way an organisation thinks, as changing processes. Take new ideas and building on them. Don’t just try to fit them into old ways of working, because that’s not innovating, that’s the past trying to stifle the future.

Innovation, in its truest form, is about finding a problem to solve, not a solution to a problem.


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