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Innovation is part art and part science. In my mind, innovation can encompass the full spectrum from finding new processes to inventing completely fresh products or concepts. As 2016 approaches, planning is already well underway for most organizations, and leaders will need to decide what items need to be reevaluated and how best to amplify current successes while building on new areas.

First, consider what area of the business could benefit the most from a refresh, viewed through the lens of critical drivers:

  • Market Factors: New competition, new regulations and other key market factors can be among the most powerful forces as it requires you to look at your business with fresh eyes. New cost structures and disruptors can push your business to transform to evolving business models.
  • Customer Perspectives: Examine the common pain points for your customers and address those needs at a minimum. Then, figure out how you can delight your customers and drive customer experience To get to these epiphanies, examine the data and scorecards you’ve built to gather valuable business intelligence.
  • Core Competencies: The ability to deliver new ideas will affect your decision-making process. New opportunities should fit around the core competencies and structure of your organization – either leverage the current state or go-forward and build.

As you brainstorm and look for ideas that would best drive the key strategic priorities in your organization, here are five points to consider:

  • Strategically In Sync: You can have a stellar idea, but it needs to make economic and strategic sense for the business. You need to pressure test the concept to be sure it aligns with the direction of the organization and the values shared.
  • Play Favorites: Rather than chase every idea, put your ideas through a strategic filter first. Then, you can invest in the right level of time and resources to drive a holistic plan and execute flawlessly. Balance the thrill of generating the idea with figuring out the market viability.
  • Drive Differentiation: Ultimately, does it differentiate and make good business and economic sense? Will this drive the business to a better market positioning and help your customers?
  • Environmental Influence: Remember that good ideas come from lots of different places. Listen to diverse thought within the organization and outside of it to garner unique perspectives. Set aside some quiet time to think away from the distractions of email and conversation.  At the end of the day, it’s about having a fresh perspective and an open mind-set to change.
  • Company Readiness: The organization should have a culture that values, supports and focuses on innovative thinking – welcomes it, focuses on it, invests in it.

While “fail fast” is a mantra we’re all familiar with, it can be difficult to both move quickly at the onset,  know when to iterate, and recognize when to let go if something isn’t working the way the business would expect. Knowing how and when to act is the art form.


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