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Do you have to make shiny new things to be an innovator?

We were recently the subject of an innovation case study with a great group of people studying entrepreneurship from Nottingham University, which got me thinking; How does an organisation get the ‘innovation’ stamp?  Especially one that provides technology services and consultancy rather than shiny new devices for its clients?

We believe we demonstrate innovation in terms of how we engage with our clients to help them solve specific, as of yet, unaddressed problems and our key clients tell us they value this approach.  All the same, it is nice to get some confirmation through the study!

Innovation is defined as ‘something new or different introduced’ the act of innovating meaning ‘the introduction of new things or methods’. In technology, this word is typically associated with the Apple’s and Google’s of the world – people that produce great new products. However, as the definition indicates, innovation comes in many different guises – and recently, several things have crystallised in my mind about how an organisation should and could maintain an ‘innovative’ culture, and in doing so, be recognised by their clients for being that way. So here goes…

Where I think it starts for me is in creating something where the core motive is not solely about making money.  If that is the only thing driving you, you are on a slippery slope thereon.

The most important thing is having a purpose and a passion around that purpose, then ensuring everyone – and I mean EVERYONE – clearly understands what you are trying to improve, change or make better for your clients. As a leader, it’s about instilling strong values and having the inner drive to get things done, always staying focused on the core purpose.

It’s absolutely key, from an organisational perspective, to promote a culture where people are actively encouraged to come forward with ideas and make decisions. Everyone has a role in the drive to be known for ‘Innovation’. Every person in every single team across your business. It’s a shrewd move to never become the arrogant innovator, never become complacent and assume you’re being innovative, always looks for ways to improve…I will practice what I preach in a minute and end this post…but quickly, before I do…

It goes without saying that to solve a unique problem for the first time – for a client – takes a lot more time and effort than selling a defined, proven proposition.  It also takes a higher calibre of individual to find solutions to such problems, and often, the result is that these engagements are often not very profitable, if at all.  So why invest the time? The reason I am willing to invest the time is to achieve ‘brand differentiation’, so that our clients trust us as the company to help them overcome challenges and problems, rather than just a company they buy stuff from.

Do we innovate for every client?  The honest answer is no, we don’t.  Not every organisation needs immediate innovation.  We do, however, innovate for a lot of our clients where trust is implicit and they really value the partnership we have. ‘Partnership’ emphasises the potential of sharing in the risk and reward together.  Time, effort and commitment need to be invested from both sides, and sometimes finding a solution isn’t easy.  If it was, the solution to the problem would already be known.  If, you do manage to work out a solution, it’s important to recognise each other’s contribution and tell the world what you have done, together.

You’ll notice that I have not mentioned profit or EBITDA during this piece. There is a key reason for this is linking back to the core purpose I mentioned.  Focus on trying to make a real difference for the client and everything else will (hopefully) take care of itself. I have not yet given up on trying to calculate the true monetary value of innovation, but I when I work it out, you’ll be the first to know…

 

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Comments: (2)

Paul Love
Paul Love - Konsentus - Nottingham 03 May, 2013, 14:00Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

I agree that innovation should not be an end in itself. To be sucessfull and worthwhile it must be accompanied by customer acceptance and adoption.

With the mutitude of choices avaiable, one of the best innovations a bank should pursue is to equip itself with a stable, reliable and flexible platform to drive its current payments products that will facilitate smaller scale innovation, where new products are configured, rather than coded, and then tested on selected customer segments.

The best way to invest in innovation is not to create a single “shiny new thing”, but to build the agility required to create sustainable competitive advantage. By building in the flexibility required, banks will have an agile solution that will allow them to move quickly and maintain a competitive position in the market, as well as benefiting from operational cost savings.

 

 

 

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 03 May, 2013, 18:58Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes Paul thanks for your comment - interesting & great to get a view from the client / banking side. I couldn't agree more in that every partner / client relationship should be focused on trying provide that sustainable competitive differentiation you talk about