Innovation – A Simple Explanation of the What, Why and Where
Welcome to Ichiban’s June 2016 newsletter about innovation; inspired by a little treasure I rediscovered this week.
It’s now been about 20 months since I packed up my office on my last working day as an “employee”; since I filled my backpack with last minute stuff . As often, I was actually the last one out of the office. I remember carrying my mug and stuff in a box, dropping my ID card at reception and having to manoeuvre myself out of the place with hands full. Closing one gate, I opened a new one into a new world as a start-up. It has been a year where I really learned what it means to be innovative and think outside the box.
There are more than 1,3 million solo businesses in Australia. It is people who work to make a living, make a difference and it is often the people who have to be really innovative to survive. It is in this world where I have seen what innovation is and can be.
What is innovation?
I don’t think you only need to create value but you really have to solve a problem that your customers have and it makes it easier if they are already paying to resolve this problem.
I found this little book called “The waterproof book of fishing knots” amongst some old stuff in the week. It still looks brand new, even although I can remember buying it about a decade ago. I have to admit, I have no idea why I would have bought it; since I am no fishing person. This book is great and can almost inspire me to go fishing….
This little book is a treasure of innovation.
All 19 pages of it.
It states the problem simply:
Knot failure – the main reason for “the one that got away”, especially that once in a lifetime fish.
It is practical:
The book is waterproof. It fits in your pocket or your tackle box.
The index page is on the back of the book, so you know which knots are included in the book.
Best of all – at the back has a fish measuring ruler , both in centimeters and inches.
Therefore never again do you have to scratch your head to remember how you make the “Perfection Loop” or the “Spider Hitch”.
It provides a solution to two problems:
The book shows you how to tie 15 killer knots to prevent that “one to get away” again.
It allows you to measure the one that did not get away.
It is affordable:
The book was not overly expensive.
It saved you to buy a ruler or take one from your kids’ pencil case.
And somehow, it is timeless:
It was first published in 1996 and you can still find it.
Being laminated or waterproofed, it withstands the tides of time.
Why is innovation important?
Innovation is important for different reasons.
It comes down to solving your customers’ problems in order to remain competitive, attractive and to deliver value for money.
Innovation comes down to making your customers’ life easier than what your competitors can.
Sometimes you can even find a solution for two problems as our fishing book did – not only do you have the easy to follow steps for making the knots but you can also measure your fish. Two problems, one solution.
You often reduce cost for your customers overall and provide them with a much required saving by combining problems and finding one solution.
Innovation requires a culture that allows innovation; that is probably why you find innovation occurring in back rooms, entrepreneurial businesses and some younger generations. Large companies often talk about business improvement, use great tools such as Six Sigma; but in the end, if you stifle people’s ability to see and problems and put in place barriers that make it hard to solve those problems, you will not see innovation happening. Worse, your innovators will take their innovative abilities and close the gate behind them.
What do you need to be able to create a culture of innovation?
- Be open to problem identification and solving – all ideas are allowed to be voiced;
- Listen to your customers – find out what they really want, don’t work on the premise that you know what your customers want; provide your customers with the space and opportunity to tell you their problems;
- Make time for innovation – set aside time to be creative; even try out Mr De Bono‘s different hats for fun. You may just be surprised how innovative you and your people can be;
- Allow people to challenge the status quo and please, please, please – please remove the party poopers who tell you “this is how we have always done it”!
- Remove barriers for implementing innovation – big business have all the gadgets and tricks and people to allow people to come up with great ideas, but then those great ideas die a slow death as you have to jump all these hoops to get simple innovation through;
- recognise and reward all innovations and great ideas (even if it is just a small thank you).
Not all innovations qualify for funding but it is certainly worthwhile looking at options for funding or recovering some of your money spent on innovation.
In Western Australia, the WA government pledged $20 million towards innovation. Scope and rules are still unknown but keep this one on your radar if you are in Western Australia.
At a federal level, we have the Innovation Agenda and it has been interesting to watch what grants have been approved to date.
Look at your local government and even council websites to see what grants are available.
Crowd funding – who knows? Some of the strangest innovations came off the ground because of crowd funding.
Don’t let innovation be the one that got away
In the end, don’t let innovation be the big fish or the one in a lifetime opportunity that got away. make sure you know how to make your knots, tie your ropes and create a culture of innovation in order to deliver value for money for your customers and to hold on to the one that otherwise “have gotten away.”
Let innovation be the knot you use to solve your customers’ problems.
If you have any questions on
- how to link innovation to procurement,
- value for money or
- about the Industry Support Fund,
please feel free to send me an email at Celia@IchibanCommercialSolutions.com.au or call me on 0439518910.
Have a great day!
Celia Jordaan is procurement and risk specialist at Ichiban Commercial Solutions, Perth Western Australia. With over 20 years experience, Celia has worked in different countries, locations and cultures in the areas of procurement, supply chain, contract management, law and risk. Celia worked in the area of risk management, contractor management and safety.
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