- Despite the fact that all companies tend to struggle with challenges around innovation, new companies are in an ideal position to innovate.
- Innovation is not exclusive to technology and can involve an array of aspects of a company or organization.
- In order to overcome challenges in innovation, companies should embrace new restrictions, offer incentives for innovation, and more.
All companies face challenges around innovation, but new companies are particularly prone to difficulties in this area. Here are some common innovation challenges new companies face and how to solve them.
Too new to innovate
New companies and startups just getting their footing might think innovation is a goal for another day, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, not innovating early may keep you from competing in your industry, quashing future growth.
But actually, new companies are in an ideal position to create the culture of innovation necessary to get the job done. Before operations become too fixed, make it everyone's job to create external value for customers, versus focusing only on "internal efficiencies."
This way, innovation becomes a pillar of your day to day – instead of an afterthought. It takes that kind of daily dedication to succeed in innovating, so make it part of your routine from the start.
Thinking innovation is only a "tech" thing
When you think of innovative products, it's easy to think innovation is all about iPhones, smart refrigerators, and self-driving cars – but that's a myth.
"There are still a lot of opportunities outside of engineering, especially like in marketing and sales; those areas are just untapped," said Kuhan Milroy, senior director of social business innovation at SAP. "Nobody seems to think that finance is a place you should go to get innovative ideas."
There are no limits to where and how innovation can impact your company. Start with a problem that needs solving – in any business unit – and gather the people most invested in solving it. They're the ones who'll help you convince higher-ups, find sponsors and prove the case for innovation as a constant.
Not knowing where to source ideas
Maybe there isn't a pressing issue to fix, so that means you don't need to innovate, right? Wrong! Innovation is about the process and working to meet a future not yet set in stone.
For example, the internet of things (IoT) is a major area of focus for brands and businesses in many industries, and rightly so. New companies must also work toward this eventuality, which means finding ways to assimilate this new connectivity into their products and services as it takes hold.
If you're not getting what you need from inside your company, use social media to source ideas. Look to consumers to understand what they imagine as the next great thing and make it. Or, in this instance, look to the IoT leaders in your space to learn what they're excited about. Let those ideas inspire you, because “getting up to speed and stay on the cutting edge of IoT is challenging and time-consuming. IoT is not a single discipline, but it requires experience in R&D, design, engineering marketing and community management.
And once you source those great ideas, you need to make sure you don’t lose them!
Losing track of ideas when you have them
Another common challenge is the opposite of the above: an overabundance of ideas. Each challenge requires a way to track ideas coming in as well as their status over time. If an idea moves into prototype production but then stalls, it's a waste of resources.
Likewise, an idea that will be great – when the technology to support it advances – is useless if there's no way to keep tabs on it for when the time comes.
Being new doesn't have to be a limitation – just as innovation doesn't have to be a burden. With the help of technology, and a true understanding of what innovation is, any company can make innovation a top priority. Those that do will be around longer than those that don't – so it should be obvious which one you want to be.
How to overcome innovation challenges
If you are seeking ways to overcome innovation challenges that may be affecting your organization, you can do so in the following ways:
- Embrace new restrictions. According to Ideo, one of the top ways to overcome innovation challenges is by readily embracing the new restrictions that are being caused by the innovation challenges. This can empower organizations, rather than hindering them. For instance, if you have new budgeting constraints as a result of innovations being introduced within your organization, you should use that to further fuel innovation, rather than being resentful or resistant to those innovations as the latter is counter-productive.
- Don’t get hung up on jargon and rhetoric. Focusing too much on language and logistics can cause unnecessary confusion. New technology and innovations often sound overly technical, which can cause some employees to be resistant to their implementation. However, if you ignore the language being used and instead, focus on how functional the new innovations are, this will allow you to better move forward as a company.
- Offer incentives for innovation. If there are no incentives for your employees to experiment and find the best ways to use new innovations within a company, they are less likely to do so. However, by encouraging your employees to take calculated chances with new technology, it will be easier for your employees to gain a better understanding of the new innovations while potentially uncovering new and better methods of incorporating the new innovations into the company.
- Use purpose-driven stories to rally support. Create an opportunity for employees and/or customers to tell stories that remind everyone of your company’s purpose. This will make it easier for employees and customers to accept the innovations as they will be able to better understand why the innovations are necessary.