It’s becoming more and more apparent in today’s marketplace – regardless of industry – that innovation is critical to long-term success and business sustainability. The question becomes, particularly for those companies in the commodity industry, where do we even start?
Longtime practitioners of innovation, of which there are many, know well that building a company that has a true portfolio of promising ideas to tap into is quite a challenging task. Such a portfolio needs to include initiatives that represent different levels of company risk and return, ranging from what Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen calls “incremental” innovations—tweaks to an existing product or service—to “disruptive” innovations—changes in strategy with the potential to transform markets or business models.
Might I suggest that your business begins with considering incremental innovation – doing so won’t cause you to take on overwhelming initiatives but will instead focus on improving what you already do best. In the world of utility poles, incremental innovation might focus on how to maximize the performance of a utility pole product line. For example, consider what modifications could be made in order to limit growth of vegetation around the pole, or how to make the poles better equipped to handle broadband and Wi-Fi connectivity in pockets that are underserved in this regard.
Leverage the product you have and find a way to make it even more useful. Consider your products and/or services and ponder the following:
- What is the main benefit of the product or service that I currently provide? What are the necessary benefits I must deliver on and what could provide even greater value?
- What major customer problems or unmet needs exist that today remain unexplored?
- What is my product’s life cycle? Within that lifecycle, where can things improve that may positively impact my business and perhaps my customer?
- What trends seem to be of interest in my industry and complementary industries?
- When is the last time I have implemented any kind of change or improvement to my business processes or product?
Innovation, and the integration of it in your business, doesn’t need to be a blackhole of uncertainty – it can start with what you are already doing, just finding a way to do it better. Ask yourself these questions and consider how you can make incremental changes that can make a larger impact in the long-term. Learn more about effectively implementing innovation within your organization here.