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Mandisa Makubalo asks “What is innovation?” and introduces valuable lessons

Every business leader agrees that INNOVATION is important, yet they cannot agree on what it means. It has become a rather confusing buzzword which has been positioned in a very complex way as it comes in many flavors.

Today, I will define innovation as the foundation of this 2 part series before Michelle Spaul explores the practicality of innovation.

What is Innovation?

Innovation is about turning an idea into a solution that adds value from a customer’s perspective. If customers do not perceive the changes as having value, they will not be compelled to buy. It’s all about the customer’s perceived value and constantly bringing value to them.

Let us take a close look at examples of innovation, remember this list is not meant to be exhaustive, I’m sure you can think of more:

  • Fixing problems customers may not even know they have;
  • Finding broken experiences, fixing them and measuring results;
  • Re-inventing the ways customer service is delivered in your industry e.g changing the way customer’s pay;
  • Changing the way shoppers discover new products

How do great leaders innovate?

  • They look for game changers and these can only be found externally through the eyes of the customer;
  • Rather than innovating products or their technology they innovate their entire business;
  • They flip innovation on its head and look at every new thing they are trying for various customer perspectives;
  • Instead of asking for more great ideas they create a culture of open dialogue with everyone including their customers;
  • They recognize the importance of staying relevant in order to meet the ever-changing needs of customers;
  • They listen more to customers and consumers for innovation;
  • To them innovation is not just about idea generation;
  • They make long term investment in innovation culture;

Let us explore some common mistakes made by various organizations:

  • Talking much about innovation vs getting back to basics;
  • Asking for ideas which results in a lot of noise and unnecessary work as every person in and outside the business has an opinion, suggestion or idea about how to improve things;
  • Spending too much time on idea collection which implodes organizations from the weight of all the ideas;
  • Innovation being fuelled by a business challenge or a senior manager experiencing an urgent need for something new.

In closing I want to leave you with these questions:

  • Is your organization looking at every new thing they are trying out from a customer’s perspective?
  • How is the innovation bringing constant value to customers?
  • How is the innovation allowing your brand to stay relevant in order to meet the ever-changing needs of customers?
  • Is your organization innovating from an end to end perspective?
  • How is your innovation helping customers achieve their goals?

First published on LinkedIn 22 July 2020.

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