Unique and common challenges all companies, especially new ones, 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 getting 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," notes Kuhan Milroy, senior director of social business innovation at SAP. "... especially like in marketing and sales; those areas are just untapped. 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.
There are apps for managing ideation, incubation and every phase of innovation, so make use of them.
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.