The importance of innovation
The Cambridge Dictionary defines innovation as a new idea or method, or the use of new ideas and methods.
In the context of the creative industries, we’d generally sway towards the latter — the use of new ideas and methods. Essentially, innovation in practice is a combination of creativity and work. Work is important because true innovation isn’t solely represented by new ideas, methods, or products, but by the process as well.
Okay, so we have a definition. But let’s be honest, ‘innovation’ has become something of a buzzword over the last few years, so why is it so important? There are a number of reasons.
For businesses — from startups to established multinationals — innovation is vital for getting an edge in order to penetrate markets faster. In most industries, the difference between what competitors are doing is often slim, so being open-minded and agile could be a game-changer.
Innovative culture also breeds better ideas and helps to drive original concepts. This is why some of the largest, most successful companies (Facebook, Google etc.) still try to operate like a startup where possible, even as they dominate the landscape. Anyone who has experience with startups will know that being innovative is the bedrock of growth and success.
There’s a way to do it better. Find it. — Thomas Edison
As well as breeding ideas and original concepts, innovation within a company is also proven to increase productivity. Cracking the whip may increase output to a point, but there is only so much you can improve without some form of innovation, without a shift away from the tried and tested. To truly improve productivity, you need to think about more efficient ways to increase output rather than simply increasing the stress on existing systems.
A case in point here is Gravitywell’s work with food manufacturing giant, Adelie Foods, which commenced five years ago. Like many other companies in an industry averse to change, Adelie were still taking customer orders via phone and fax. Yes, fax. Before long, our customer portal software had changed the face of their operation and saved them £millions in the process. This seismic shift in efficiency led us to develop our own SaaS platform for the food manufacturing industry, the result being the innovative Mezze.
How to innovate
Innovation is clearly a key ingredient to success, but how does one actually put it into practice? It takes a concerted effort. Perhaps a shift in mindset is also required, towards conceptualising and then providing something that is genuinely original and efficient.
This is where we can learn from those doing it best. Salesforce is, according to Forbes, the world’s most innovative company. In fact, the cloud-based software company has been a mainstay on the magazine’s prestigious list for the best part of a decade.
So what makes Salesforce so innovative? What have they implemented? One of Salesforce’s earliest innovative moves was back in 2005 when they launched AppExchange. With more than 3,000 apps that can enhance Salesforce’s functionality and performance, AppExchange is the largest online marketplace or partner ecosystem. The marketplace also encourages innovation by helping developers to market their own products to Salesforce customers.
Salesforce also offers its own free training program for those who want to learn how to use the CRM software. Launched in 2014, Trailhead consists of various modules that help you master the platform, and also includes a Developer Edition for those interested in developing apps and solutions.
Innovation is a continuum. You have to think about how the world is evolving and transforming. Are you part of the continuum? — Marc Benioff, Founder, Salesforce
In 2016, Salesforce launched Salesforce Einstein, their own AI platform. Powered by machine learning, predictive analytics, and natural language processing, Einstein aims to give customer-facing employees accurate intel on leads and customers.
Salesforce continues to diversify and innovate, with last year’s acquisition of the interactive data visualisation software platform, Tableau, and the recent $27.7B megadeal purchase of the popular business communication platform, Slack.
Allow innovation to inform
Innovation should always form your approach — with creative thinking, problems can be solved differently and strategically. This is an immediate, tangible change you can implement within your business. When it comes to your team, be mindful that flat hierarchies can help drive innovation, so surround yourself with people who have different ideas and pool these to achieve a unique perspective.
It’s also important to bear in mind that innovation doesn’t have to be headline-grabbing. The example of Salesforce might seem overwhelming, as their operation is so vast and well-endowed. But applying their mindset to make seemingly minor, incremental changes could be a great place to start. Eric Schultz suggests we pay attention to the “quiet innovation” — in this case referring to the societal advancements in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic — as he rightly points out that we often confuse innovation and (the more obvious) technology. So if innovation hasn’t been a high priority for you of late, perhaps 2021 is the year to make that change?
At Gravitywell we love to work with free-thinkers and innovators. If you’d like to chat about your project or learn more about our process, get in touch.