Business Innovation 1) An introduction

The UK launch of the Apple iPhone last Friday seems a good time to launch a series on innovation. Each week I will post on the topic of business innovation and, specifically, how it relates to the delivery of superior customer service.

Topics to be covered will include:

  • management innovation
  • technology
  • disruptive innovation
  • creativity and innovation
  • innovation myths and barriers
  • open innovation

What is business innovation?

I am specifically using the term business innovation as it gets to the core of how to deliver improvements in customer service. It’s a loose term – if you search the web you won’t easily find a definition – so I’ll provide my own.

Business innovation is innovation applied to an organisation’s business processes, culture, management systems and infrastructure in order to achieve a positive benefit.

It’s sometimes also referred to as operational innovation although this tends to focus more on the ‘hard’ process aspects rather than the vitally important people and cultural issues.

This is still a fairly broad definition but it does largely exclude product innovation which is often what people traditionally think of when innovation is mentioned. (It also lets me off the hook of feeling obliged to comment any further on the iPhone – several other commentators have done a better job including a very eloquent Stephen Fry). However since much of the thinking that makes product R&D successful is equally applicable to business innovation we won’t be ignoring it completely.

Why is it important?

Successful businesses innovate continuously – through bringing innovative new products to market, changing the way in which their businesses operate to improve the service they offer to their customers or combining both. There is also thought to be a dearth of innovation in many organisations. This has always struck me as odd – and was one of the reasons I set up my own consulting business – since if you talk to a selection of front line employees in any organisation about what they do day in and day out they will invariably come up with ideas about how things could be better for their customers. Not all of these ideas will be earth shattering but with a bit of stimulation and prioritisation they can be.

Business innovation – when practiced intentionally and consistently – gets under the skin of an organisation and taps into the innate creativity that human beings possess.

More on this and related topics to follow but in the meantime, many of the links on the links page will take you to sites with comprehensive information on all aspects of this fascinating topic.

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