May 18, 2024

Businesses today grow and succeed for many different reasons. Some have excellent products, others provide amazing services, while others still might have strong brand loyalty or exciting marketing campaigns. The organisations that stand out the most, however, and are leaders in their industries all have one thing in common: they embrace innovation.
But what is innovation in business and how can it help you to succeed?
In this article, we will explain everything you need to know about innovation including what it is, how to encourage it within your organisation, and the benefits it can bring to your business.
Innovation is the act of developing something new or breathing fresh life into existing products, ideas or processes. A company might pursue various types of innovation in different areas of their business to adjust to fluctuating markets.
Some of the most successful companies in terms of innovation include relatively young but huge companies like Amazon and Uber which totally revolutionised their industries to leave themselves top of the pile. Amazon, for example, started out as an online bookstore but quickly grew to become one of the world’s largest retailers due to its continuous innovation. Uber, on the other hand, disrupted the taxi industry by making it easier and cheaper to order a ride from your smartphone (which delighted customers and angered taxi drivers simultaneously).
Older companies like Apple and Microsoft have also shown themselves to be way ahead of the game with technological and marketing innovation. In fact, it is important to remember that both companies were facing near collapse at one point before they embraced innovation and turned their businesses around.
Let’s take a look at Apple and Microsoft to understand more about how innovation can be a game changer in business…
Apple has effectively used innovation at many strategic points during its history to increase sales, revolutionise its brand and even just survive! That’s right, For example, in the ’90s, Apple was on the brink of failure but managed to save itself by teaming up with Microsoft—a company long perceived to be its adversary. This one act effectively reformed Apple’s entire corporate persona and resulted in the release of the ground-breaking iMac.
Apple’s partnership with Microsoft was only the start of a period of rapid innovation and success for the two companies. They took risks and worked together to develop iPods, iPhones, Macbooks, Apple Watches, iPads, and many other successful devices, as well as the iTunes platform which changed the music industry forever.
We’ve all heard the phrase “you move with the times or you get left behind” and for companies trying to succeed in the ultra-competitive world we live in, this has never been more true.
If you consider the advancements in technology over the last twenty years, you can see why innovation and adaptation are so important for businesses. The internet, in particular, has completely transformed both operations and opportunities for companies. Just some examples include:
In order to stay ahead of the curve, businesses need to keep up-to-date with the latest technology and trends so they can take advantage of new opportunities as they arise. This might mean investing in research and development, encouraging creativity among employees, or partnering with other companies to stay ahead of the competition.
There are four key phases of innovation that businesses need to be aware of in order to succeed: ideation, development, implementation, and diffusion.
Ideation is the first stage and refers to the process of generating new ideas. This can be done through brainstorming sessions, encouraging employees to think outside the box, or looking at what your competitors are doing. These ideas can be for new products, more efficient processes, or ways to enter new markets. During ideation, it’s important to be as creative as possible and not dismiss any ideas out of hand because you never know which one might be the next big thing!
Once you have a pool of potential ideas, the next stage is development where you start to flesh out these concepts and decide which ones are feasible and have the most potential. This is where you need to start thinking about things like cost, timeframes, and whether you have the resources to make these ideas a reality. You will also need to research whether there is a gap in the market for a new product or whether your current human resources can manage a major process innovation. This can be done through market analysis, in-house testing, or focus groups.
Once you have a solid plan in place, it’s time for implementation. This is where you put all the pieces together and start to roll out your new product, process, or service. You will need to ensure that everyone who is involved understands what needs to be done and when, as well as make sure that there are systems in place to monitor progress and track results. This is also the stage where you might need to make some adjustments to your plans if things aren’t going as expected. For example, you might need to modify your product if it’s not meeting customer needs or make changes to your processes if they are causing too much disruption.
The final stage is diffusion, which is when your innovation starts to become mainstream. This can be tough to achieve as you need to get people to change their current habits and try something new. Marketing plays a big role here as you need to create awareness and interest in your innovation. In terms of internal processes or operational innovation, you will need to make it easy for people to adopt, such as by providing training or support. Once your innovation has diffused, you can then start to think about how you can further improve it or what other new ideas you can bring to the table.
There are two types of innovation: sustaining and disruptive.
Sustaining innovation is incremental and seeks to improve upon existing products or processes. An example might be a new feature on an iPhone that makes it slightly easier to use. Disruptive innovation, on the other hand, is more radical and game-changing. It seeks to create entirely new markets or overthrow existing ones. A good example of this would be the way Uber disrupted the taxi industry.
Which type of innovation is right for your business will depend on a number of factors, including your company’s size, financial situation, and overall goals. However, it’s important to note that both types of innovation can be equally successful.
There are so many benefits of ongoing innovation (including ensuring the existence of your company) but here are three that all business owners should seriously consider:
If you’re not innovating, your company is likely to become stagnant. This means that you’ll eventually fall behind your competitors and lose market share. On the other hand, if you’re constantly coming up with new ideas and improving your products or services, you’re much more likely to see continued growth.
This was evident when Apple released the iPhone in 2007. Not only did this increase sales and market share for Apple, but it also resulted in the creation of entirely new industries, such as app development.
Investing in innovation can help your company to grow in a variety of ways, including:
All of these can have a positive impact on your bottom line and help your business to thrive.
In order to stay relevant, it’s important to keep up with the latest trends and technologies. This way, you can ensure that your products or services are still in demand and that your company is meeting the needs of its customers.
For example, if you’re a food manufacturer but haven’t updated your recipes in years, chances are that your products are no longer as popular as they once were. On the other hand, if you’re constantly coming up with new and innovative recipes, you’re much more likely to stay relevant (and popular).
The same can be said for any industry. If you want your company to remain relevant, you need to be willing to adapt and change with the times.
Some other ways to keep your company relevant include:
It’s important to remember that what was popular yesterday might not be popular today, so it’s essential to stay on top of current trends. This way, you can make sure that your company is always relevant and ahead of the competition.
Innovation can also help you to differentiate your company from the competition. If you’re offering something unique that nobody else is, you’re much more likely to attract attention (and customers).
Innovation can put your company on a pedestal in a number of different ways such as:
Every industry is fiercely competitive these days so any innovations which can help your company to stand out should be explored.
Ideally, innovation should be driven by everyone in your company from the top down. This way, you can create a culture of innovation that will encourage employees to come up with new ideas and help to implement them.
Of course, this isn’t always possible (or practical) so it’s often up to senior management to drive innovation within a company. However, it’s still important to involve employees at all levels and give them the opportunity to contribute their own ideas.
Some ways to encourage every member of your team to get involved with innovation include:
These strategies will allow you to tap into the full potential of your workforce so that your company can continue to grow and thrive. It will also improve employee morale and help to create a strong company culture with everyone pulling in the same direction.
Like anything, there are always some risks associated with innovation. The main risks include:
Of course, these risks can be mitigated with proper planning and execution. However, it’s important to be aware of them before making any decisions.
Innovation is essential for businesses that want to stay ahead of the competition and keep their customers happy. It can help you to stay relevant, differentiate your company from the competition and tap into the full potential of your workforce. We hope this article has helped to understand what innovation in business is and has shown you just some of the ways innovation can benefit your company.
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Real Business has championed entrepreneurship in the UK since 1997. It is now the main source of inspiration, education, and collaboration for the owners of fast-growing businesses, from startups to mid-market companies. Real Business provides readers with high profile interviews, news, insight and industry benchmark reports, as well as a growing stable of events tailored to SME growth.


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