4 key ways companies can innovate successfully

What makes some companies more innovative than others? The way we shop, order food, manage our lives and access entertainment has shifted in ways we could only imagine 20 years ago.

Online shopping, apps, and smartphones have all changed the way we do business and communicate with each other. Innovation has become part of our daily lives. We now talk to Siri and Alexa. Tesla has made electric cars aspirational. Robots are becoming more sophisticated, smaller, and a familiar part of our lives. We think nothing of seeing drones in the sky. What?s the secret of successful innovation?

The world's most innovative companies list
The world’s most innovative companies

Prof Fiona Lettice, Pro Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation and Professor of Innovation Management at the University of East Anglia addressed this question at VentureFest East in Newmarket on September 21. She identified four key ways in which companies were able to innovate through changing the lens, building missing links, engaging a new customer base or leveraging peer support.

This is my take on what she had to say.

1. Change the lens

The first action on Prof Lettice?s list is ?change the lens?. Innovators think about things from a different perspective. They don?t reinvent the wheel necessarily, but they make the wheel do different things or give it a quality people find irresistible.

Mobile phones are a useful idea on their own. But when you start enabling other functions like email and a camera, they take on new functionality. They become useful in a different way. Now we use our phones for email, look up information in seconds, watch TV and can make a film if we want to. You can run a business using the phone in your pocket.

Another example is the development of Tesla. Prof Lettice said: ?Elon Musk said it wasn?t that there was no demand for electric vehicles but there was no demand for an unattractive vehicle.?

2. Building missing links

Spotting a gap in the market is next on Prof Lettice?s list of innovative behaviours. If there?s something you think should exist and research tells you there?s a market for it, see if you can meet that need.

Prof Fiona Lettice said innovators build missing links
Prof Fiona Lettice said innovators build missing links

3. Engage a new customer base

Looking for new markets is a great way to innovate. Prof Lettice gave the example of low budget airlines during her talk. By taking an innovative look at the product and making it attractive to people who had not been able to access it before, low budget airlines were able to build a profitable business which changed the holiday industry.

Prof Lettice said: ?Think about the consumers who are not consuming.? What can you do for them? What are the barriers to them using something? Spot the game changer and you?re in business.

4. Leverage peer support

A theme running throughout VentureFest East was the power of collaboration. Business can seem competitive, particularly when you are dealing with IP. But if you put competition fears aside, by meeting with others and sharing ideas, you can develop new products and services. Build a network and make time to go to events. It may seem like ?time out? from your work but could lead to some great inspiration.

Leveraging peer support is not just about ideas though. Prof Lettice pointed out that it also gives you access to sources of finance and people who can help you on the next leg of your journey. Leveraging peer support enables you to build an engaged team of people around you.

  • Rachel Extance is a communications consultant helping businesses tell their story. However you are innovating, she can help you connect with your audience.
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Rachel Extance

Award-winning journalist and blogger. I help service-based business owners communicate who they are, what they do, and why. If you struggle to talk about yourself on your website or your content marketing, get in touch with me.

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The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this article are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this article. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this article. The Story Cave Ltd disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this article.