With the acceleration of modern economic, societal and environmental changes, new opportunities are created everywhere, and often where we least expect them.

The best way to juggle these new opportunities is to play to win: play to out-perform the competition, play by adapting to new rules, play by innovating with new products. It is not a question of inundating the market with short-lived products, but rather strategically focusing on new products that ensure sustainability. Indeed, new products represent an interesting growth opportunity, as studies show that they are much more profitable than organic sales growth.

Innovation is becoming the core of corporate development. It becomes the bridge between the company’s goals, strategies, structure, systems, culture and leadership. The CEO’s role then becomes that of Chief Innovator of the company. This will be reflected in the communication of values, mission and vision.

Innovation is not owned by the R&D department: it is important not to hand over all the innovation space to internal or external experts. Avoid the situation where the technical team throws new products at the marketing team without any prior interaction and the latter does the same with the sales team. Therefore, it is no surprise that the product fails to meet the performance objectives and disappoints the different teams! Innovations are not the sole preserve of patent engineers. Keep in mind that the number of patents a company has is not enough to qualify it as innovative.

But What is a True Innovation?

It is about the conversion of an original idea into revenue and profit. Great ideas on paper or in the lab that fail to break through to the market are not new products born before their time. Nor are they poorly promoted by marketing or poorly deployed by sales. An invention can become an innovation, but an innovation does not wait for inventions to become successful. The nuance is important and can make a difference in the profit column.  When there is a cross-over between an invention and an innovation, it completely changes the game. However, waiting for a Eureka! is definitely not the fastest and most efficient approach to see profits and revenues grow. Only the structured engagement of all teams will allow an idea to successfully reach the market. This is a team effort and is essential. Innovation is not a great story that is repeated like a tale or a legend: it is an obstacle path on which we develop our skills, a structured and repeatable process. Yes, it’s risky. Keep in mind that a well-managed Innovation Ecosystem optimizes returns on investment.

But How Does a Company Become Innovative?

  1. Focus on your consumers: Your customer, your end consumer is the key factor that will make the most difference in the success of your new products. Talk to them! Listen to them! Why not take advantage of your social media communities?
  2. Find opportunities in the known market, BUT don’t neglect the hidden opportunities: determine where you want to play and how you want to win! Spread the risk between what is the core of your business and deploy to what is newer.
  3. Approach innovation as an ecosystem where the different elements are interdependent with each other: you have to take care of it, feed it, adapt it, and above all, nourish it. The more you nurture it, the better results it will give you.

Two main myths about innovation that need to be busted:

1: Innovation is the product of a handful of geniuses and big corporations.

FALSE: It takes very little investment and resources to bring innovation to your business. It takes repetition. It takes ideas going to market in a structured process so they can be refined. Your consumer will tell you if it’s worth the effort, but they need a taste! Connecting with the market, testing and improving is the key to innovation. Not the huge R&D department.

2: Innovation is only about new products.

FALSE: Innovation that transcends corporate culture can transfer everywhere: in logistics, in the business model, in processes

  • Dell: in supply chain innovation
  • Google: in the monetization of the business model
  • Toyota: in the production process
  • Walmart: in the management of the inventory system
  • Starbuck’s: in the evolution of the “coffee shop” concept

All leaders managing a budget are accountable for moving innovation up a notch or two to the extent of their influence.

In conclusion, keep in mind that companies that do not invest in innovation or that cut back on new products as soon as finances become tight, risk seeing their longevity cut by several years. Their own lack of vision will cause them to slowly disappear from the consumer portfolio. Talk to Kodak, Firestone, BlackBerry, Sony, who were, in the more or less distant past, the leaders in their industry…

About the Author

Mélanie Beauregard is a team leader with 20 years of management experience in manufacturing companies, large and small. She provides companies with tools and skills to deliver their strategic plan or innovation.

After completing her MBA in Business Management at Université Laval in 2002, Mélanie quickly turned to product management and she went on to complete her training in product management and development, project management, market analysis and performance indicators with the Product Development and Management Association (PDMA) by obtaining the New Product Development Professional (NPDP) certification in 2007.

In 2011 she built on her strengths with program management, portfolio and organisation by leading and contributing to the programs and project offices. To get more tools and to ensure the performance of the programs she has to deliver, Melanie has successfully completed her Green Belt Lean Six-Sigma certification in 2018.

Her experience in multidisciplinary team management allows her to mobilize teams, structure tasks and define roles so that everyone understands expectations and contributes to the height of their abilities while learning!

Recognized for her empathetic leadership, her ability to solve complex problems quickly and efficiently, and by bringing innovative business models, Melanie has contributed to the success of many product development and partnership projects, optimizing internal processes and clarifying roles in order to achieve the goals entrusted to her.

Featured image via Shutterstock.