“A business is dependent on the relationship between clients, product and its systems.” This was our opening statement in explaining the Business Process Optimisation (BPO) triangle in one of our articles on BPO. A business that does not innovate is a business continuity risk. For a business to stay relevant, it must be relevant to its customers and their needs. True innovation is not just about the product, but also includes different aspects that make up the business.
Identify your ‘business oxygen’
Innovation is as important as breathing to a business. The next breath is important for the life of the business and that breath is from the next dollar that the business receives.
The “oxygen” of your business is the money that you receive from clients when they buy products through your systems. If that “oxygen supply” stops coming in the right quantities which are sufficient to support the entity, then the business will eventually stop existing. If you don’t recognise the life-giver, you might never make the right plans to ensure that it keeps coming. Innovation requires that you plan to receive more and sustain the levels that you are receiving. So any threat to your oxygen requires solutions and new thinking to ensure that you keep the business afloat. The absence of competition analysis and business reviews is a sure disaster for lack of innovation. Most businesses which do not have a watchful eye on competition, current performance; risk issues and customer needs are usually not big on innovation.
Open cheque innovation
Being innovative does not mean innovating on the product only. Remember, there is the client and system aspect. As a business, you could introduce new sitting arrangements, new product packaging, new product variations and so much more. Your level of innovation must not be limited to just the everyday cliché, “let us create a new product.” Coca-cola are good at open cheque innovation, their personalised bottles and cans were still selling the same drink with the same chemical composition, but they made more sales out of this than in most campaigns. Do not stick to the conventional, “let us make new products thinking”; sometimes the smallest variation can create the greatest business improvement.
Every business always has an improvement that can be made because the client, product and system variables are always dynamic. You must always be thinking of what can be done to make the systems better. How else can I bring value to the business by providing value to the client? The cheque is in the mail, but in this case, the cheque is in the innovation.
Allow research and development
If there is one department that does not exist in most African companies, it is the Research and Development department. Most products are incidental or copycats, hence as a result, there is no real product made which is tailor-made for the African environment by African businesses. In all fairness though, not all companies can afford an R and D department; however, there is need for innovation on how to have one. Global competition is about time and money, the person who can best utilise time makes the most money. A function of research and development is still required to allow for new competitive edges to be drawn. The bigger the edge, the more business oxygen (money) the business will have. A company must consistently be providing fresh ideas and a fresh feel.
Innovate on a concrete business model
If you do not know what you are about, then you cannot be about it. Innovation requires a foundation about what the business is about. If the goal posts of what the business is about are constantly shifting, then the innovation will keep changing and the client, the product and the systems will be confused. People are the innovators for any business. In the absence of a clear direction of what the business is about, there will be confusion about what line of thinking that business must pursue. Any true innovation must be done based on the business model that the company is working on.
Winston Zvirikuzhe is an Assurance executive at one of the telecom companies in Zimbabwe with extensive experience in strategy and performance management, as well as audit, risk and advisory services.
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