Innovation is something all businesses want to do, and do better.
Whether it’s incremental advancements or fresh, disruptive innovation, all businesses are searching for the ideas that will help deliver great services and products to customers, and of course, greater returns over time.
In my experience, innovation in the business world works best when it is nurtured and embedded within a company and the way it works. This means that – whether you’re a leader or part of the team – you need to have the ability and freedom to experiment and create.
The benefits of making innovation part of your business are wide-ranging but a few of the most compelling are:
- Improved decision making processes with experimentation allowing choice of direction based on results, not theory
- Increased staff engagement by involving team members on all levels to trial key ideas
- Surprising insights which will come as a result of increasing market testing
We have a ‘start-up’ mentality and the tools we use are applicable across different business types and sectors.
So here are my top five tips for fostering a culture of experimentation and innovation in your business, no matter what size you are.
1. Embed innovation in the organization
Take the time to define where experimentation fits within your company’s culture and work to incorporate this vision into every aspect of the business – embed it within your organization.
2. Think like a newbie
It doesn’t matter how big you are or how long you’ve been in business, you can still think like a start-up. Challenge not just your team, but yourself, to generate new ideas and solutions related to a range of challenges, like sales strategy and product development.
At Intuit, we have 8000 employees, yet we put key product decisions in the hands of small teams. This allows us to be fast and nimble so that we can consistently generate new ideas – try using small groups and experiment with putting people from different functions together as part of the process.
3. Design for success
One innovation process which guides our work at Intuit we call Design for Delight. This philosophy involves truly understanding how a customer does their job to see how you can improve their experience.
Here you need to talk to and observe your customers and the way they work in the real world. Then try to uncover those insights that will help you exceed their expectations in the product or service you deliver.
Test your ideas with them and ask for feedback – you’ll soon find out works and what doesn’t, then you just need to adapt your approach until you nail it.
Some recent research we conducted with Australian small businesses has confirmed how effective our Design for Delight philosophy has been for ensuring our product delivers a great experience.
4. Experiment, measure & showcase success
I love experiments but to be sustainable as an everyday business practice, they can’t always be huge or to take weeks to develop. Using quick, easy to implement experiments is often a better use of resources because they allow you to test your ideas and get feedback (valuable data!) before investing huge amounts of time and energy on a project.
Here, making sure you get insights from experiments is crucial because it is this that will help you improve your service, product or experience next time. Your initial hypotheses may prove to be wrong – and this is a good thing. The trick is to savor the surprises and use that data to improve your offering.
5. Make everyone an entrepreneur!
Hierarchy shouldn’t determine who has the opportunity to pursue new discoveries or ideas. Decisions should be made by those with the most creative insights or those who are closest to the customers. You need to create- or rally for- opportunities for every employee to ask questions and have their ideas heard for experimentation.
So there you have it – five ideas on how to engage your employees, develop your offerings, delight your customers with innovations and grow your business.
Nicolette Maury is managing director of Intuit Australia, the company behind the world’s number one cloud-based accounting software for small businesses, accountants and bookkeepers, QuickBooks Online. Responsible for leading Intuit’s rapidly expanding Australian presence, Nicolette heads a fast-growing team to deliver dynamic business management solutions and world class customer support. Nicolette brings more than 11 years’ experience in ICT to Intuit and prior to this role, she spent eight years at eBay in a number of key positions.In 2013 Nicolette won the AFR Boss Young Executive of the Year Award and in 2014, was recognized by the CPA as a Young Business Leader of the Year.
Originally published in Leaders in Heels (only women's business) e-magazine; reprinted with the specific permission of the author, Nicolette Maury.