Richest Source of Innovative Ideas is Under Your Nose
Ideas are the currency of the 21st century and companies are increasingly in competition with each other to generate innovative ideas better and faster. In a world where game-changing innovations seem to come out from silicon valley every other week however, how can the rest of us hope to keep up? The solution lies in your ideation approach.
When searching for creative solutions and innovative ideas to business challenges, all too often, companies turn to business partners or consultants who have never had any first hand interactions with their customers. This is a poor start to the ideation process as true innovation is about solving real problems - problems your customers actually face. In fact, investing precious time and resources into ideas that do not take into account your customers’ pains, goals and behaviour is more likely to be a costly misadventure than an innovative breakthrough.
So where should companies look for ideas worth pursuing? Well, if the goal is to develop ideas that solve real customer problems, then naturally the search should begin with the customers themselves and the people who work most closely with them. Customers often come up with the best ideas and frontline staff who interact with them on daily basis are in the best position to actively gather and harness this wealth of ideas.
Unfortunately, ideas from low-level employees are frequently quashed by the middle management and many great suggestions never see the light of day. To get around this, business leaders need to make extensive efforts to solicit ideas from all employees, particularly customer-facing employees, publicly rewarding ideas that succeed and not punishing those that fail. In time, the corporate culture will shift and middle management will understand that the company truly values ideas from low-level employees and that they are willing to accept the associated challenges and risks.
To further take advantage of ideas from customers, businesses should invest in the training and development of their customer-facing employees. Helping these employees develop their creativity and problem solving skills will allow them to become better at adapting to change and improving their flexibility. In addition to improving employee engagement and job performance, such training and development initiatives can also help to stimulate inventiveness and improve a company’s competitive edge.
If customer facing employees are a great source of innovative ideas because they work closely with customers, then it follows, that businesses can expand their source of ideas by increasing the number of employees that interact with customers. Businesses looking to do this could consider having their mid to high level employees participate in customer service where it would be appropriate. Getting everyone in touch with the customer ensures that the whole organisation is tapping into this source of ideas, exponentially increasing its value and further ingrains customer-centricity into the corporate culture.
Finally, once a business has developed a system for generating lots of innovative ideas, what are they to do with these ideas? Decision makers within the company need to manage all these ideas; and they need to have the right tools, processes and procedures in place to facilitate and streamline the collection, assessment and testing of these ideas. Afterall, even good ideas are not worth anything without execution.