Running a business in an age that demands constant, out-of-the-box innovation is no walk in the park, says Geoff Prissman, Co-Owner and Director at Slo-Jo. It takes great leadership, buy-in from people at all levels of the organisation and an open-minded understanding of what it means to be truly innovative.

 

Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate the importance of keeping innovation at the heart of everything we do as a business, and I believe that every business needs to adopt this approach to not only survive, but to truly thrive.

On the other hand, I don’t believe that there’s a clear-cut definition for the term ‘innovation’. One of the biggest mistakes I see companies making is leaving innovation to an ‘innovation department’. Hiring a team of young creatives to brainstorm new and quirky business ideas does not equate to bringing innovation into your business.

In my experience, innovation involves a two-pronged approach. Firstly, ensure that ideas are given room to flow freely and at random in order to generate that electricity and excitement that results from fresh, new ideas to play around with. Secondly, keep away from narrow interpretations of innovation and ensure that all staff are engaged in a more focused, practical approach to becoming more innovative.

Along with the freedom to come up with great ideas, innovation also needs structure. Consider the execution of these ideas from a business perspective – aspects such as market research, competitor analysis, and identifying opportunities and threats are crucial steps for innovation to work.

True innovation comes from a good understanding of your business as a whole, against the backdrop of an ever-changing consumer landscape. How do you plan to fulfil the needs and demands of a target market in constant flux?

Instead of trying to outsource innovation, work towards nurturing it as a core value of your business so that it becomes embedded in the culture. This is where effective leadership is key – focus on involving all staff and aspects of the business in the process, so that people feel included and that their contributions are valued.

Rapid changes within the tech industry have also introduced a new set of challenges for the traditional sector, where meeting customer demands is a lot more complex than ever before. For this reason, innovation is at the centre of every aspect of the Slo-Jo business model – from financial management and logistics to sales and marketing.

This perspective is also what earned us the 2015 Product Innovation Award from KFC, recognising the supplier that brings the most relevant and innovative concepts to the table, while aligning with KFC’s strategic objectives.

However, organisational change of this kind does not happen overnight, and businesses need time to adjust to this way of operating. It’s also crucial that your approach to innovation is based on practical methods of application and execution, rather than a few hypothetically ‘good’ ideas.

Keep in mind that innovation is not just a playground for tech companies and the younger generation – it exists in different ways for all businesses. Becoming innovative requires lateral thinking, strong organisational skills, and the ability to execute critical tasks in a short period of time – which are all important survival skills for businesses in the modern era.

Every business – regardless of the industry or environment – needs to innovate in order to survive. It’s not enough to bring in a few creative big guns to do it for you – innovation needs to be a priority in every department of your business and an embedded element of organisational culture.