You Want to Innovate But Do You Have the Willpower?

By David Sauter, CEO

Published: October 29, 2013

It’s very easy for a company to boast they are “innovative” or “on the cutting edge.” To find a company that actually lives, breathes, spurs and implements innovation throughout a culture, services and products is a rare find. Your customers are the judge as to whether you practice what you preach regarding innovation and it doesn’t take them long to either become fans or turn to your competition.

Idea Bubble

Fresh business solutions and products require moxie and although you want to innovate in your company, do you have the willpower to admit to your shortcomings and rebuild with new solutions? Innovation is defined as “the act or process of introducing new ideas or methods” and success in this area requires intentional behavior. Belief that you are innovative is easy, but behaving as though you are is more difficult.

 There’s a prescribed formula most successful innovators apply. The key is to understand the correlation between strategy and execution. So many times, in business, executives and leaders start solving the problem before it is really even accurately diagnosed. Most companies strategies only deliver 63% of planned financial value. This is where willpower comes in. Willpower requires you to take the budget, resources, and the time to make sure you have a thorough diagnosis before you start “fixing” or changing something. Diagnose before you prescribe. Understanding the dance between strategy and execution and accurately diagnosing where the obstacles reside is the key to driving higher financial returns.
  1. Diagnose: In order to develop a viable strategy that will produce desired results, you must first understand the problem. Is it’s source internal or external? Is it engineering, design, supply chain, manufacturing, distribution, sales, customer service? Ironically, this is the most difficult step, as most companies fall victim to an “inside out” perspective and therefore cannot accurately identify or describe the real issues. Nimble thinkers involve external business analysts, inviting them to conduct audits or strategic assessments known as straudiments. This  analyses will help identify and scrutinize business workflows. An outside perspective is necessary to help truly understand where improvement opportunities are. This first phase of diagnosis does not have to be heavy and can take only weeks if done efficiently.

Successful diagnosis also requires top down support, starting with the C-Suite. One of the most difficult practices for traditional companies is to admit that something is wrong. But it is also the one action that can spur change big enough to produce radical results. If the willpower to change and innovate isn’t supported by the C-Suite, you’ll find it very difficult to implement a strategy and see results.

  1. Prescribe: Diagnosing first allows you to accurately prescribe a solution. The last thing you want to do is get enamored with a piece of technology and then build your solution around technology. The solution isn’t about technology, technology is used to implement the solution. Do not forget the people.  Your prescribed  solution should always consider and define people, process and then technology.

Most companies start with the technology and fail. Get off the technology and start with the business strategy. When you begin by looking at the people, your audience, and then the process and your goals, the right technology will make itself apparent organically.  Many executives are not yet comfortable with technology anyway, so it is beneficial to an organization and strategic interactive business initiatives to start with the business needs and goals first – the diagnosis.

For many companies, it is difficult to innovate; easy to claim creativity, but difficult to see it through. As we move forward in a world that requires unique solutions, where “innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower,” just remember don’t prescribe until you’ve diagnosed. And don’t go at it alone, if you don’t have to.