In today’s rapidly evolving business environment, innovation is key to the growth (and indeed, survival) of most firms. Many of us are constantly on the look-out for an innovative new idea. The best innovations don’t tend to come from a great idea. Instead, they tend to come from solving a problem.
For example, Steve Jobs realised that CDs couldn’t hold enough music and buying albums at music stores was expensive. He solved this problem by creating the iPod, a device that could hold over 1,000 songs, combined with an online store (the iTunes store), allowing users to quickly and cheaply buy the music they want at any time.
Truly innovative ideas typically don’t arise through brainstorming or divergent thinking. The best ideas tend to come in response to an important problem and generally, under constraints (time, budget, etc.). Every age comes with its own unique problems. For the past 25 years or so, businesses have been solving problems through the use of technology. Technologies such as microchips, relational databases and the internet have led to new innovations like cloud solutions, online transaction processing and process automation.
Technologies that utilise blockchain technology or open source software have created the need for updated database structures and the internet has been shown to be quite insecure. Solving each of these problems will create fantastic new opportunities. The challenge for business owners and managers is to understand how to innovate in order to take advantage of these new opportunities.
The challenge is that you can’t plan properly when technology is moving forwards at such a fast pace. However, you can focus on how to plan around the problems related to your business, your customers and new emerging markets.
Instead of trying to get every move right, which is impossible in today’s environment, managers need to try to become ‘less wrong’. We need to treat strategy as a learning process. We must try new approaches, learn from those experiences and innovate in order to create new and better solutions. In essence, we need to start innovation planning – planning based on things we need to learn to solve new and important problems. So look for a good problem and start innovating from there.