Leadership Skills Development - Five Key Activities of Innovation
by Peter McLean
Leading innovation in business development and risk management is the result of action, thought and creativity, commitment and dedication, as well as perseverance.
Innovation is the product of continually conducting five key activities. These activities can be incorporated into your small business plans, your leadership skills development and your corporate team building.
Understand Your Customers and Find Out What They Want
Go and visit your customers and talk to them. Get to know them. Find out what their needs are and determine what needs are not being met by what you are currently offering them. In some cases, you may not be able to help them directly, but you may be able to point them in the right direction.
In most cases, however, if you work together discussing their needs, it is surprising how many new opportunities for innovation will emerge.
It is only when you build trusting relationships with your customers that you will come up with something that you never thought of before.
In such moments, breakthroughs occur in our thinking, and we come up with solutions that are new and beneficial to both your customer and to your business.
Understand People Who Are Not Your Customers
Listen to people who are not your customers, as well. In this respect, try to understand what sells and the reasons that it sells, as far as these people are concerned.
Become aware of the reasons that people who are not your customers give for their not being interested in buying your products or services. Think about the features you could potentially add that could make your product or service attractive to them.
Know Your Own Business Capabilities
It's all very well to come up with exciting new opportunities or ideas that have been generated in discussions with customers. However, these potential opportunities have to be analysed in the hard light of day to see if they are worth pursuing or not.
To complete this analysis, you must know what your business is capable of in relation to prospective innovative initiatives.
The new idea must be in line with the nature and direction of your business. It must be in keeping with your skills base. It must fit with your business in terms of its structures, systems, planning, resources and shared values.
Questions need to be asked and answered in light of all these elements. You must talk to the key people in your business and listen to what they have to say. You need to debate and discuss the pros and cons of each initiative. By doing this, you are generating an energetic mindset and a 'can do' culture in your own business.
Ultimately, not every idea has merit. The approach outlined above ensures that new ideas are constantly being responsibly evaluated and considered in your business. Such activity stimulates innovation.
Having said above that you must align new ideas with the primary focus of your business, in terms of its nature and direction, it is also true to say that those elements likewise must be challenged by emerging new ideas. What got you where you are in business today will not necessarily get you where you want to be tomorrow.
Be prepared to challenge the conventional thinking in your own business and understand the gaps that might appear in your capabilities if you pursued a new course of action.
You should not be frightened to explore new choices that might take you into new territory. Innovation requires taking risks. The important thing is to minimize the risk and maximize the opportunity to deliver the highest likelihood of success.
Create an environment in your business that encourages free and open thinking, where nothing is taken personally. Focus the discussion on the idea and not the personalities. Bad news and good news are both important to hear.
Share ideas and wrestle with the questions until you hone the idea down to a product or service that can be delivered.
Another thought about product development is to keep it simple and uncomplicated. Too often, people want to design the killer product with heaps of features, bells and whistles that, in the end, nobody wants or uses.
Take the Idea to Market
One of the highest valued qualities of good leadership is getting results. Once you have decided what to do, do it, and do it quickly.
On the basis of having listened to your customers, taking into account other sources of information and having hammered the thinking out with the people in your own business, you must then act expediently. Get it out there.
Develop the product or service. Learn from any mistakes you make by understanding the causes of such failures. Always evaluate and be open to feedback and make adjustments.
Remember, innovation in business has a distinct emotional element. It preys on our hopes and fears and raises the excitement and anxiety levels. Nothing that was ever worth achieving comes about by sitting on our hands. Innovation in business is born of sheer hard work, determination, commitment and resilience. Emotional intelligence in business involves managing your state through this emotional roller coaster.
Leadership skills development, in terms of innovation, is about being willing to go into an unknown future, with clarity of focus, clear-headed thinking and a willingness to take the calculated risk.
About the Author
Peter McLean is a highly experienced Coach, Senior Manager, Consultant, Business Owner and Company Director. He successfully coaches top Executives in some of Australia's leading multi-national companies. Peter works extensively in the Public, Private, and Not-for-Profit sectors, delivering outstanding results for his clients. To learn more, please visit the Essential Business Coach web site!