Building a culture of innovation: The role of adaptability


Adaptability

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;

– William Shakespeare

Take your time.

No really, take your time. After all you don’t want your business to be like one of those quiz shows where you are working against the clock to come up with any sort of answer.

So you go ahead and take your time; have as many meetings as you like, develop action points to be reported back the next time the team gets together, and if a query comes up along the way well just shelve any further action until the next meeting.

That’s the great thing about being a market leader with a well-known product isn’t it? Sure you want to develop it but that development can take as long as you like because your customers are loyal, right? Maybe the market is moving, maybe disruptors are coming in and trying to develop products fast; but that’s not going to worry you because you have a historic position and brand in the market; a strong product and an equally strong and faithful customer base.

Try telling that to Blockbusters or Woolworths or Comet or Kodak. They, like so many household names have fallen to the disruptors; to failing to anticipate and meet a changing marketplace. Yes your customers might be loyal but loyalty only goes so far. If the product or service you offer is increasingly irrelevant in a changing society then why should your customers stick around?

You see loyalty goes both ways. Your customers are loyal because they trust you to deliver products or services which are right for them. If you betray their trust then it is you who have broken the relationship not them. That’s why adaptability, executing change better and faster in an agile manner, is the third component of Next Generation Organisations.

In the previous two articles in this series we looked at the importance of intelligence and collaboration in driving game changing solutions. But really getting under the skin of your customers and then working with them to co-design innovative products, services and experiences which solve genuine problems, add real value for customers and drive growth means nothing unless you deliver that innovation in a timely manner.

Quite simply, there is no point in identifying a problem if the solution is delivered so far down the line that your customers have given up and gone elsewhere or their need no longer exists.

This need for speed approach was illustrated recently by Eric Boullier, the racing director of McLaren, when commenting on problems relating to the F1 Honda engine. Highlighting the fact that “In racing, if you don’t bring your upgrade for race one, in race one you will be nowhere”, he commented that “we always try to go to the best solution as fast as possible.”

Is this ‘need for speed’ approach confined to sport? Absolutely not! We live in a fast-paced technological age in which disruptors can come from anywhere and may not yet even be in existence. Being innovative isn’t enough unless you can deliver what the customer needs at the time when the customer needs it. So adaptability is the name of the game for those who not only want to stay ahead of the game but also to own the rules.

In some instances that may require the taking of a minimum viable product (MVP) approach. The classic ‘can’t do this’ response to such a suggestion is that the customers wouldn’t like it. Well no, they wouldn’t if you try and pretend that the initial version which you are offering is an all singing, all dancing finished product.

However, if you are honest about your MVP approach and are already collaborating with customers in order to design the future then they will appreciate the way in which you are attempting to bring them a quick and viable solution. Companies like Google do this everyday as part of their strategic approach to innovation and using customers to co-create, co-develop and iterate in real time.

MVP or not, the delivery of agile solutions requires an organisation-wide transformation in culture and thinking. There is little point in designing system changes if your IT developers work on a minimum three-month turnaround.

There is absolutely no point in bringing in new products if your marketing team have pre-booked defined content for the next six months. And if your accounting system is so inflexible that budgets agreed at the beginning of the year are set in stone, well you might as well shut up shop and hand back the keys now.

Intelligence, collaboration and adaptability will only deliver game-changing solutions if people are fully engaged in Building a Culture of Innovation. And when we say people we include suppliers, and other third parties as well as employees in the mix. It’s not rocket science but building a culture of innovation does require a systematic approach and strong leadership.

There will be challenges along the way and the temptation will be to bring in change which is too short, too sharp and too shallow. Get the change right and you can create an organisation which looks to constantly evolve along an innovation journey as it constantly evolves the products, services and experiences which its customers really need.

As Simon Hill, co-founder and CEO of Wazoku says:

Innovation initiatives work best when they are put at the centre of an organisation and everyone across the business is engaged and involved. With the right platform, process and culture there’s no limit to what can be achieved.”

This article was written by Cris Beswick for My Customer and previously posted on 26/07/2017.

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