While global events like the pandemic present innumerable economic challenges, they can also speed the adoption of new technology: just look at the uptake of online meeting services. Similarly, with growing demands from both governments and consumers to improve energy efficiency, the adoption of innovative solutions is set to accelerate rapidly.
Companies that respond rapidly to change and are quick to market new products significantly increase their chances of growth.
Considering the speed of change and transformation right now, all organizations need to be innovative. If not, they risk becoming obsolete quite quickly in their field.
Anders Wikström, a researcher and inspirational speaker on business innovation, says the drive for constant innovation is all about creating relevant value for your customers. “Considering the speed of change and transformation right now, all organizations need to be innovative,” he says, “If not, they risk becoming obsolete quite quickly in their field. We have seen this happen in history, although the pace has increased significantly in the last 10 to 15 years.”
In the 2022 HLB Survey of Business Leaders, 99 percent considered rapid innovation critical to future growth, while 92 percent thought market disruption motivated them to innovate. Disruption caused by the pandemic made respondents more likely to regard technological advances as business opportunities. The survey also confirmed that the global climate crisis is significantly increasing the willingness of business leaders to invest in more sustainable operations.
Innovation goes beyond technology
Recent events aside, it’s not hard to see why manufacturers are compelled to pursue innovation. The most immediate impetus is staying ahead of competitors. Innovation also offers the chance to determine the conditions within new markets. Before needing to compete with rival brands, it’s possible to establish exclusive agreements with suppliers, set industry standards and develop strong relationships with customers.
These advantages are not confined to the inventors of new technology, but apply equally to companies that identify new applications for existing technology.
Manufacturing companies can pursue innovation in a variety of ways. These include introducing new technology, altering supply chains, modifying processes and introducing new business models.
“Innovation is something that goes beyond technology,” Wikström says. “It can be technological, but it can also be sought in services, business models or new processes and new ways of working. When considering renewing your products or manufacturing processes, it might also be important to consider the timing of implementation and the effect that changes will have on ways of working or processes.”
Innovation demands instability
Replacing old technology with new, innovative solutions is not without its challenges, regardless of the potential it might offer to improve sustainability, efficiency or output quality.
“All organizations are striving toward stability. However, working with innovation is almost always about instability,” Wikström says. “We have structure and processes to maintain stability, but innovation demands the opposite. This means that we should always consider the existing conditions for innovation. You can do this by measuring and analyzing the climate for innovation within an organization.”
How to become more innovative
Anders Wikström gives five tips for how organizations can boost innovation:
- Start by understanding the preconditions for innovation in your organization.
- Try to become more systematic regarding your innovation work. For example, look at the ISO 56002 standard for ideas on how to build an Innovation Management System.
- Define what innovation means for your organization and what your ambitions for innovation are.
- On an individual level, allow people to reach their full potential by challenging them and giving them freedom to think and act.
- Build psychological safety in the organization. This unleashes debate and the creative and critical thinking needed for innovation.
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