Revolutionary technologies, such as artificial intelligence and the internet of things, are rapidly emerging and enabling businesses to transform their operations from the ground up, leaving organisations that don’t embrace these innovations on the back foot.
Faced with such relentless change and ambiguity, leaders need to ask challenging questions of themselves and their teams to secure the future of their company. What’s my role as a leader to drive more innovation into my organisation? Is innovation a regular conversation in the boardroom? How can I make it safe for our people to think out of the box and challenge the status quo? Perhaps most importantly, how can I plot a course through this uncertainty and ensure my organisation benefits from the latest advancements in technology?
“Leaders who will thrive in this age of disruption will build two separate, but integrated, engines that sit alongside their operations: one that looks at innovation and incubation, and another focusing on transformation,” says David Holliday, Partner at Gate One, a leading digital and business transformation consultancy.
The innovation engine is about systematically finding, prioritising and testing new ideas that have the potential to transform your organisation in the future. It’s all about controlled experiments to find and prove new sources of value, both through your own people and via a range of external partners and sources.
“Once an idea proves successful, as a leader it’s vital to rally your organisation and make space to successfully launch them. This transformation engine is then the place where you deliver the real value from the innovation, which means the bridge between these two engines is really important,” says Mr Holliday.
“Successful ideas can often get caught in a pilot trap where a great deal of experimentation takes place, but no actual launches are committed to by leadership. Left unchecked this can soon sap the morale out of those tasked with innovating.”
To thrive leaders will build two sustainable and integrated engines; one that generates innovation and the other delivering business transformation.
Gate One collaborated with a FTSE100 FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) company to ensure they had a fully formed innovation strategy and approach, leaving the dreaded pilot trap behind. As a global multi-billion-pound company, this firm urgently needed to address declining sales of new product innovations.
“The leaders at the business were helped to develop a more targeted innovation strategy and process, which put customer insight and early minimum viable product, or MVP, testing at the heart of the development and feedback process, while developing a roadmap of breakthrough and disruptive innovations, such as digital products and services, into their portfolio,” says Mr Holliday.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach for creating a successful innovation engine and strategy, but the first step is to demystify innovation and define exactly what it looks like in your organisation. A recent UK Innovation Survey discovered that almost 50 per cent of businesses found their own internal organisation to be the most important source of innovative ideas, indicating the value of seeking out insight and empowering your frontline employees.
Systematically finding fresh ideas and experimenting with emergent technology is, of course, extremely valuable, but is only half the story. As a leader, you also need a sustainable transformation engine to launch and scale proven ideas into your business repeatedly, and achieve the all-important benefits.
Several major housing providers have enlisted the help of Gate One to design and launch pioneering customer omni-channel transformations, improving the lives of their housing customers while realising significant operational efficiencies.
“Through this work, business leaders were supported to develop their digital omni-channel strategies and future operating models, understand and build their new digital capabilities, pilot and launch several new technologies, and achieve a major shift away from traditional, inefficient customer channels. This was critically underpinned by culture change initiatives to develop their people and build future transformation capability,” says Mr Holliday.
No matter what sector a company operates in, its leaders should ask critically how am I innovating today? “As a leader, it’s imperative to think about your innovation strategy early on, and ensure your organisation and people are set up to examine and then exploit emerging ideas, seizing all the exciting opportunities digital innovation presents,” Mr Holliday concludes.