Innovation is central to the business world, and today it’s happening faster and more dramatically than ever before. Every industry is experiencing change and disruption, which makes for some exciting – though challenging – times for businesses. Particularly for those in the electronics and technology spaces, there are exciting new projects and ideas coming about on a near constant basis, resulting in some difficult but rewarding work.

Almost every industry is being disrupted, and the ways in which this is happening vary widely. We’re seeing long-established businesses struggling to find their place as newcomers and new innovations come to light. As a result, it’s critical that established businesses adapt and grow as the market changes, or risk being left behind as consumers’ expectations, requirements and desires change in line with the times.

There are well-known examples of companies who failed to adapt and embrace innovation in their markets – Kodak and Blockbuster, to name a few of the most frequently discussed. The key takeaway to note here is that both of these companies were frontrunners in their respective industries. So if companies of such scale as Kodak and Blockbuster, with massive market awareness and customer bases, can be left in the dust, how easy must it be for smaller-scale, less well-known businesses to fall behind?

One of the key concerns for many businesses when it comes to innovation is that of cost. Often times the cost of research and development, and the cost of trial and error when it comes to launching a new product or service, can appear too risky, unenticing, and not worthwhile. But innovation does not have to equal cost. And even where it does, the long-term return on the investment can most certainly be worthwhile.

Does innovation have to mean new products and services? 

No, not at all! Innovation can often refer to the invention or development of new products and services, or changes to existing products or services. But that’s not to say that adding new products or services is the be-all-and-end-all of innovation. In many cases, changes to your industry may call for you to innovate your business model; for example moving to a subscription-style business model over a single-purchase model – as can be seen with many software packages such as Microsoft Office or the Adobe Creative Suite. Alternatively, the changing market may call for you to innovate your internal processes in order to reduce cost or time-to-market, while keeping your product as is. Or you may need to investigate opportunities to make your existing products / services more customisable at scale, or increase flexibility based on changing consumer expectations. In any given industry or niche, there are countless opportunities to innovate and adapt, and there is value in consistently evaluating such opportunities to ensure you’re ready to jump when the time calls for it.

Is it possible to embrace innovation without heavy investment?

Absolutely. For many businesses, the foundations required to open the door to innovation already exist and may simply need a few changes to internal processes to nurture.

For example, one of the most critical elements of innovation lies in your people. It’s not (or it shouldn’t be) solely down to senior management to identify and plan for business opportunities. Every person employed in your company has a vested interest in ensuring the business continues to perform well, and people from varying backgrounds, with varying interests and activities, will see your business and industry from different perspectives. Because of this, they might identify different opportunities, see new ways of doing things, or feel that they or their roles could benefit from certain changes. Allowing your employees to share their thoughts and opinions – and more importantly, encouraging them to do so – could open eyes to ideas that may never have occurred to senior management or even R&D team members. An organisational culture that encourages creativity, taking time to consider improvements, and discussing opportunities openly, will pave the way for continuous business growth and adaptation.

“The largest obstacles will be weak imaginations, threatened interests and culture. Business model innovation is the new essential competency. It will separate tommorrow’s winners from the losers.” – Geoff Colvin.