Innovation Launchpads – The path to connection

Nicola DarkeNews

The path to creation is through collaboration

That’s the yoga teacher in me speaking, but it’s true and most innovators will subscribe to this perspective. The more we work together, the more able we are to initiate bigger change. Notably, social innovation and making a positive impact beyond the commercial four walls we work within, let’s face it, is what really matters. Major social challenges need inter-generational, inter-industry collaboration. Perspective. Dialling it back down again – business challenges need this perspective too.

So what about getting closer to the other communities around your business – your suppliers, your partners, your customers – hell, even your competitors – how else can you make a real social and economic shift?

Many businesses struggle to move past the transactional relationships they have and build proper connections with their communities. Much of this stems from fear – of not being able to completely control the interactions, of not being able to commit to outcomes. Dare I say it, sometimes this is really the fear of becoming aware of what the customer you’re serving might really want… and having to change to accommodate.

It’s time to let go a little and balance openness with control. There are ways to control and manage those interactions which are just a little different to what you may have tried before.

There is a lot of disagreement about whether innovation can happen inside or outside – see my first Future Shapers article, innovation starts at home.  Think differentiated innovation can only happen externally where people turn to labs, buying in new capabilities etc. I believe there’s room for it all, and indeed that you need it all to shift your organisation to a position of dominance in terms of competition. Ultimately you need to balance your focus and your innovation mix, and you can do that in a way which works best for your business, starting wherever you want. Perhaps internal marginal gains are what you need to free up resource, improve operational excellence etc, and you want input from partners to look at the bigger shifts you can make in industry.

There are different paths for different organisations.

Innovation can be a complex beast at the best of times, so why not take a simple approach to it which drives value beyond innovation?

To innovate effectively and engage all the communities you want, you need a systematic approach to doing so. At Wazoku we do this through our Innovation Launchpads – where we have clearly labelled approaches to getting value from all your communities in one place. First let’s segregate them out, very simply, to three audiences – workforce, customer, and ecosystem. There, not too painful was it? Don’t worry, we know there are nuances…

There’s a whole realm of possibilities of what you can do with each of your communities and after having worked with many organisations on engaging many types of communities, we can say we know the key approaches to those communities which you can start working on now.

When engaging your workforce there are three formulaic approaches you can take. Maximise cost savings and efficiencies by running ‘on the job’ challenges which focus on optimisation and continuous improvement. Returning to the need to balance your innovation mix internally so your workforce feels part of the future of the business and not just consigned to ‘on the job’, we also suggest strategic challenges and competitions. With these you are killing several birds with few stones which, in the world of change and speed, is important. The strategic challenge approach lets your business know what’s important and what the focus is they should be working towards, as well as generating ideas aligned to strategic goals. The competition works as an inspiring, fun activity (fun is key to keeping people engaged) which serves as a very strong internal branding exercise. Our customer, Aviva, is a great example of this, regularly running ‘Customer Cup’ competitions where the workforce certainly knows the customer is key and are tasked to focus on how they can better what they do for them, all in a fun environment.

To read the full article, please visit The Future Shapers

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