If you want to boost performance and get more competitive, you need to invest in innovation. That’s a given. But how do you do it? I see three distinct routes – each with their own pros and cons.
Route 1: Get together with a startup
If you know what you want from innovation, and the time is right to make it happen, you have to be proactive. Find a niche tech developer or a furtive young startup to help you bring it to life. It might take a few attempts to get right, but nurturing your own innovation project is a joyous experience.
This is also an attractive option for enterprises that want to learn, embed and sustain an innovation approach. Crédit Agricole and Nationwide, for example, are forming relationships with emerging tech firms to foster digital transformation and breed stronger market competitiveness.
Route 2: Shop for an exclusive
If you’re more of the impatient type who doesn’t like waiting, then you’ll probably want to buy something ‘off the shelf’. True innovation isn’t a commodity product though, so you’ll need to shop in some exclusive places.
RocketSpace, for example, offers a high-end personal shopping experience for innovation-hungry businesses. It connects them with pioneering startups who have a catalogue of new innovations, ready to be commissioned in a tailored way for the business. It will cost, although you will get the quality you pay for.
Route 3: See it, buy it
If you have even more cash to splash, then you could make a high-value offer to sign your industry’s star innovation player.
To the outside observer, that’s what JAB Holdings did recently when they bought Panera Bread for $7.5 billion. It followed Panera’s successful development of customer-focused digital innovations, such as mobile ordering and rapid pick-up, which have driven their share price up consistently over the last few years.
It’s not the most innovative approach to innovation – and it could be seen as just buying your way to the top – but if you have the means to make it happen and you’re looking for a fast-track approach, then it’s a compelling option.
Which approach is right?
It really depends on how you see yourself. You need to look at what experience you have in fostering innovation – and what the innovation culture is like within your organisation. Start by asking:
· Do you have ‘change agents’ who promote new ways of working?
· Where do you place yourself on the IT investment maturity curve?
· What is your track record of investing in innovation?
· How good are you at working with partners?
· What are you trying to achieve with innovation? Geographic expansion? A rollout of new services? Digitising your existing services?
· What is your current balance of Capex vs Opex? Have you made moves away from legacy infrastructure towards a service-based, platform approach?
· How long does it take you to get new products/services to market? Are you held back by organisational silos?
· Are you looking to have a sustainable repeatable approach to innovation?
Avoid failure. Pick your team carefully
Whichever route you choose, one thing’s certain: you’ll fail without the right team around you. You’ll have many challenges to overcome: design, development, testing, integration, implementation and so on. Don’t make it harder for yourself by choosing, for example, a vendor who over-promises or a project manager with no sense of compromise. Get people on board who are invested in your goal and who share your vision and style of working.
I’ll be exploring the importance of this more in my next post.