Why Micro-Innovation Should Be At The Core Of Your Digital Transformation


Daniel Newman, Contributor

February 4, 2016

Believe it or not, practically everyone is a micro-innovator. If you’ve ever created a better way of organizing digital files at the office or convinced your department to adopt a new workflow application, you contributed to business progress. Micro-innovations are small but mighty changes, and the fact that these incremental moves can stimulate profound organizational change makes them an integral piece of an organization’s core digital transformation strategy.

Micro-Innovation Supersedes Macro-Innovation

Macro-innovation can serve as a springboard to success, but the cycle of macro-innovation is unpredictable and unsustainable. Also, focusing primarily on large-scale advances may stifle the potential for smaller, practical ideas, with disastrous results. BlackBerry is one such cautionary tale. The company led the way in smartphone development for several years, creating large disruptions in the marketplace with each new innovation, but when competitors started creating small but meaningful changes to the basic technology, BlackBerry lagged behind, and eventually could no longer maintain its industry lead, which led to huge financial losses and eventual personnel shakeups. Today, though starting to recover, the brand routinely falls behind Samsung, Apple and other popular mobile tech vendors.

Micro-innovation, on the other hand, offers sustainable results for any size business. It’s a scalable approach to innovation that encourages new technologies and processes without putting all the research and development eggs in one basket. WhatsApp is a fantastic example of micro-innovation potential. The app offers instant messaging services for all devices, and as of late 2015, more than 900 million people are using it.

There are countless competitor messaging services available in the marketplace, but other solutions cost money, come with many other bells and whistles, or hit you with an endless barrage of advertisements. The simple premise of the WhatsApp business model gave it a competitive edge, and better-known messaging apps are finding it hard to compete.

Improve Your Digital Transformation with Micro-Innovations 

There are a few different approaches a business can take during a digital transformation. For example, an enterprise could focus on optimizing existing processes. In this scenario, a strategist may decide to focus on the status quo and then define a goal. Progress can be measured along the way, but this only ensures a company is moving towards optimization. It doesn’t guarantee a company will achieve its goals. In a few months or years, a competitor could create a disruption that completely marginalizes those optimization goals.

Alternatively, businesses could put optimization on the back burner and focus on marketplace disruption. Creating disruption requires accepting an added level of risk, but it also represents an opportunity for widespread success. This is where micro-innovations come into play. Organizations that encourage employees to constantly innovate and try new digital tactics and developmental approaches may fail a few times, but they’re more likely to develop sustainable successes over time that competitors may never mirror.

The question is: Do you want to play it safe in your industry niche? Or do you want to outperform your competitors and bring innovation to the marketplace?

Encourage Micro-Innovation within Your Enterprise

One of the problems in business today is the silo effect. Marketing, sales and customer service departments often work in complete isolation. They each develop independent goals and ways to measure success, but their individual actions may not help the enterprise as a whole. Without collaboration, employees may never truly understand the customer or the total customer experience—two vital areas in business innovation. They may never develop the micro-innovations needed to spur the company forward from a commercial perspective. Inspiring a workplace culture open to micro-innovation doesn’t have to be difficult, either. Here are just a few ways you can add creativity to any work environment without compromising productivity:

  • Facilitate interdepartmental collaboration in your organization through strategic brainstorming sessions.
  • Invest in employee training, and support individuals willing to take on more responsibility.
  • Use your human capital to its fullest potential—does your accountant always share fantastic marketing ideas in meetings? Encourage them to do more, and suggest cross-work with the marketing team a day or two a week.
  • Start opening doors in development meetings and encouraging everyone to speak up if they develop an idea.
  • Support action-oriented employees in their pursuit of change.

However way you approach it, the bottom line remains the same: better collaboration is the key to creating micro-innovation. While every organization needs structure to maintain daily business operations, digitalization requires us all to embrace a culture of change. Whether you work in a law office or manufacturing company, you won’t grow if you stick to the same old habits and processes. Digital transformation is never truly complete. By maintaining, and encouraging, a constant state of evolution, you’ll distinguish your company from competitors in the future.

Additional Resources on this Topic:

 How Collaboration inside the Enterprise Has Shifted

Companies Are Now Making Innovation Everyone’s Job

Create a Culture of Innovation

Image: Flickr

Also on Forbes:

2016 30 Under 30: Media

This article was written by Daniel Newman from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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