One of the clear-cut things in the world around us is that innovation is a priority, and it is so for companies, for the world of work, for people, for social policies and for the very concept of State. In every organization you can’t help but innovate because today’s revenues are made with today’s boring main-stream activities, but tomorrow’s revenues will be generated thanks to today’s concrete innovation policies.
The interesting thing is that in some industrial sectors the concept of innovation can simply mean a few adjustments to the brand, to production or to distribution, but in other cases it can mean having to completely rethink the offer, redesign products and services or even completely change the business model in directions which may have seemed unthinkable just a few months ago.
However you look at it, innovation is the process which generates value starting from ideas, therefore there is no innovation if you do not create a concrete and tangible value for the players who take part in the process itself, whether they be companies or the public administration, without ever forgetting, however, that the actual and true recipient of the value which will be produced will be the final consumer, who will be able to enjoy better products, lower-priced business models or more efficient services from the public administration.
Innovation is made by people
One of the best strategies to trigger correct innovation policies within an organization is to give space to innovators. This means kicking off from the people who are daily engaged in industrial projects, perhaps with a high technological content, who have a profound knowledge of the most innovative technologies and can imagine how these will be in the future; those people who every day consider important the search for value that is produced through innovation processes and who have the desire and the right spirit to share this thrust towards the future with others.
It is fundamental not to consider innovation a solely technological enabler, on the contrary, innovators often have the ability to identify those higher goals which can be achieved through the application of correct innovation policies, they know where it is best to look for value for the customer and the end user, and they know the best way to achieve this result. In all this scenario, technology is a formidable enabler, but it is certainly not the cornerstone of the process.
Placing all these innovators within the same social network produces extraordinary results as it shortens distances, helps the circulation of information, generates virtuous circles of knowledge and allows us to imagine the future, both from a technological point of view and from the one related to business and the use that people will make of the solutions which we will be able to supply them with.
The process begins with ideas
No matter where the ideas come from, the important thing is that they should come, otherwise it will not be possible to activate any innovation process. This is why it is essential to stimulate the organization in all ways and at all levels to ensure that anyone can make a conceptual contribution, submit new ideas, evaluate, improve and enrich the ideas suggested by others.
In order to achieve this, on the one hand it is necessary to promote knowledge and the use of techniques capable of activating imagination and creativity, on the other it is necessary to provide the organization with appropriate tools suitable for the spontaneous collection of ideas. These tools can be used locally within work groups, so as to give all employees the opportunity to actively participate in the innovation and evolution of the project on which they are working, or they can be made available to whole business areas, so as to further increase the number of employees involved in producing business or technological ideas. In some cases, it may be possible to widen the range of contributors to the entire organization, by adopting targeted and incentivized campaigns to search for new ideas, solutions and business models.
We must not forget that ideas are the key element of any innovation process; it is not necessary to worry about their number or about the commitment required to classify and select them, on the contrary we need to worry when these are scarce or when they find it hard to emerge.
One of the best ways to make a customer happy is to help him/her to achieve his/her business goals. This is often delegated simplistically to technological relationships, to the supply of new products or services, to the sale of solutions and platforms. Being a supplier of technology and integration is very important and it is good for the accounts, but more can be done: to become a partner for strategies, innovation and new business models, paying particular attention to the end customer who, as previously stated, is the true beneficiary of the value we produce through innovation processes.
To obtain this result, it is necessary to change one’s point of view of the market and to put together three basic skills: knowledge of the customer’s products and services, knowledge of today’s and tomorrow’s technologies and of their true applicability in industrial contexts and, finally, knowledge of facilitation techniques able to activate co-innovation processes.
While the first skill is almost the exclusive prerogative of the customer, the others fall within those available to any technological company or system integrator who considers innovation a priority and an important added value to be placed on the market; this is why it is essential to be able to enable new co-innovation processes, through which the customer can be supported along the innovation path of his/her business model, in order to help him/her be increasingly competitive on the market.
Thus, co-innovation processes, all those activities which can be put in place to help customers achieve their business goals, must not represent a type of offer, but the instrument through which the relationship with the customer is built up; with which it is transformed from the traditional customer-supplier relationship into a broader one with far greater potential, thereby becoming a partner in generating his/her business, a situation that generates enormous advantages in terms of relationship and of business in a broad sense.
Doing things alone is often not the best way to deal with problems, when it comes to innovation processes it is almost always the wrong choice, innovation in fact needs ideas, vision, business, technology, thinking outside the box and the greater the number of different observation points we can obtain, the better it is.
When working on innovation processes, we often find some of these characteristics outside our organization, identifying a particular vision within the work group of a research center, finding the best solution to a problem in the work of a group of academics or discovering a brilliant technological solution from a startup.
A winning solution is therefore to build, or to become a “part of”, an actual contamination ecosystem, within which it is possible to collaborate with many other players, on partnership terms, to define the idea, to fulfill the innovation process and to implement the new product, service or business model which we wish to put on the market, in order to produce that value which must always be the ultimate goal of the process.
The concept of partnership goes beyond the customer-supplier relationship which can be simply built, it is about collaborating within a logic that is a winning one for all the players in the game, exchanging views on the models and becoming an integrated element from a technological point of view, with the objective of creating a new, unique and innovative value proposition to bring to the market.
Set the course and not be passive towards it
Less innovative companies and organizations tend to be passive towards the technologies and standards produced by others, they learn about them from papers once they are already public or simply by attending conferences where they can see the application and market positioning of those same technologies or standards by those who, in all likelihood, are their competitors. This reactive approach with respect to innovative technologies is naturally a losing one, because when we talk about innovation time is a decisive element and a delay in putting a solution or a methodology on the market may represent an insurmountable obstacle to overcome in order to be properly rated by customers in the future.
Fortunately, very often the solution is within reach: it consists in actively participating in national and international working groups which deal with the definition of new technologies and their standardization. It is certainly expensive, but it allows you to be constantly one step ahead of the competition and, this should not be underestimated, allows you to give your own concrete contribution in defining technologies, methodologies and standards, as well as to become a part of a network of world experts on topics which may also be very vertical, thus feeding the relationships and the quality of the contamination ecosystem.
This approach therefore makes it possible not to be passive towards the technologies, methodologies and standards, but to act directly and concretely in their definition, shifting from being reactive to being proactive.
A better world
The innovation process therefore is not an end per se, but has characteristics which make it unique, also because of the concrete value it is able to bring to the market and to the world.
- It is based on the most active and most innovative people; those most likely to share and with the capability of sniffing out the future.
- It all starts with ideas, the spontaneous ones or those created through appropriate creativity techniques, perhaps with the mediation of dedicated platforms able to constantly improve their quality and to subsequently facilitate their selection.
- It considers the customer a partner, it helps him/her to innovate and thinks that his/her ultimate goal is to improve business.
- It favors collaboration with other players, with the aim of working together to produce better solutions, technologically innovative and functionally more appropriate, all within an ecosystem logic.
- It takes advantage of an active and constructive approach to technologies, methodologies and standards, leaving the reactive approaches to those who are not interested in innovating, but are content to follow.
Therefore, if well cultivated, innovation not only has the effect of improving future accounts by optimizing the product and service offer which will be sold tomorrow, but also has the side effect of improving the offer for the final consumer and the citizen’s experience when dealing with the public administration.
Every innovation which we may think is only technology applied to the world around us, can actually have very important social implications, improving people’s lives and helping to build a better world.