Everyday Innovation- Beyond the sexy new product

  Scott Anthony via HBR

Scott Anthony via HBR

People typically associate innovation with the introduction of a sexy new product or service. While this kind of innovation gets the headlines, innovative ideas applied to everyday problems can have just as much business impact.

Consider a recent Wall Street Journal article describing how top fashion companies like Gucci and Burberry are working hard to better manage their supply chain. One critical problem: replacing dud collections before retailers grow antsy. Burberry has spent more than $100 million to improve its ability to ensure that the right products get to the right stores at the right time.

These challenges of course require a fair amount of blocking and tackling, but there’s also ample room for fresh, innovative thinking. And think of the top- and bottom-line impact of finding better, cheaper, and faster ways to get products into stores more quickly.

Innovation should matter to you if your job doesn’t involve strategy or product development.

Innovation is about solving old problems in new ways. Human resources or information technology workers can think of new ways to help internal customers solve the problems they face. Process-focused managers can develop ways to have their processes run better, faster, and cheaper. Customer-focused employees can find new ways to provide positive experiences to customers. And on and on.

The good news is that the principles that help growth-seeking innovators apply equally to internal innovation efforts. The following questions are a good starting point for any innovation effort:

  • What is an important problem that the customer, or internal client, can’t adequately solve?
  • What stops the customer, or internal client, from adequately solving the problem?
  • How can you make it easier and simpler for the customer, or internal client, to address the problem?
  • What is a low-cost way to test your idea?

Innovation doesn’t have to land in the headlines to have impact. Everyday innovation can be critical to long-term business success