The “I” Word: What does innovation mean to you?
Outsource community members share their interpretations of innovation…
Vendor Manager, Group Operations, Amlin PLC
Simply, it can be anything that involves changing the way we do things, hopefully leading to an improvement (to the cost/security/time to market/reliability). The scope can be large or small, from a completely novel technological solution to a different delivery method or process. The innovation does not have to be completely new or unique, as long as they offer something new in our environment – it might be something that’s in use elsewhere. Some of the most valuable innovations are the ones that can be easily implemented and offer tangible and clear benefits that don’t require complex organisational changes or establishing a business case.
Innovation is creating business value either by doing old things in new ways or doing new things entirely. Because it relates to the creation of business value, it is going to mean something different to every organisation. That is what makes it so tricky to get right for service providers who are trying to deliver to many different companies.
Director, DJA Business Solutions
Innovation is all about service and product improvement. We all want the “Eureka!” moment when something fantastically new and exciting comes along but those moments are rare and innovation is nearly always about improvements to existing services and bringing in new ideas that have already been tested in other industries. The latter point is one of the strengths of outsourcing. Innovation can be things that have been around for a while but haven’t been tried in a particular industry. The cross fertilisation of ideas is one of the advantages in using outsourcers.
Director – UK Shared Services, Informa
Innovation is a really intimidating thing when you are tasked with creating some, yet, we move forward (continuously improve) on the backs of innovators. Whilst trying to tap into various veins of innovation three years ago, we decided to launch quarterly Innovation Awards for staff in our captive Shared Service Centre. This was on the basis that people closest to the action are likely to possess the necessary insights that will allow the gems of improvement that hide in plain sight in our organisation. I initially thought it would be difficult to get people to come forward with their ideas and even if successful we would struggle after the first two or three quarters. As time has passed, we find that there is no shortage of bright ideas – innovation – arising from our people and in our last quarterly Town Hall meeting, we were able to award three prizes to recognise the ingenuity of staff members. What is the secret to the success of the awards? It is difficult to say but here are my thoughts.
Firstly, we ask that people do more than come up with a good idea. For their idea to be considered a contender, they need to take the concept as far forward as they can towards realisation of benefits. Secondly, we vet each submission and ensure that the idea is not part of what is expected of a person’s job role. Thirdly, no idea is too small. Fourthly, we pay 10% of the annual benefit created (capped at £1,000) – this is important to maintain awareness and excitement around the scheme.
Director, Rara Avis Partners
Innovation has an objective and a subjective component. Objectively innovation should be defined as an invention which has the creative means and quality for being legally protected (patent, trademark etc.) and has not been on any market before. Subjectively innovation can mean something which was not there and available for the individual business. I have seen medium-size businesses operating and managing people without any HR software in place, so installing such a standard tool would be a cracking innovation for those businesses, operating way below any recommended industry standard – and I am sure you will find businesses using typewriters instead of computers if you searched hard for them.
SVP Strategic Accounts and Alliances, EMEA, Tungsten Network
Innovation is something that will achieve:
- Improved quality
- Enhanced speed to execute
- Reduced cost
Strive for all three but accept that two out of three is good.
Marketing Director, Luxoft
We define innovation as a mixture of creativity, high-level expertise, AGILE and SCRUM methodologies, and a determined standard of excellence, which results in bringing something new to the market with a guaranteed superior user experience (UX) and being the first to do it. In order to reach this level of innovation, the seeds of innovation need to be part of your corporate DNA.
Anything that adds value to a business is innovation. It’s the heart, soul and P&L of every company, large and small. It’s the making of every single success story out there. And its absence is a virus that continues to bring down giants. It’s the most powerful tool in every business person’s armoury, yet it’s so often not respected. Innovation doesn’t mean creating new at all. It means adapting, creating or reacting. Above all other things it means challenging.
Innovation is the “what if” that staff and management ask and the “let’s try” that delivers unequalled staff engagement and everything there is about business development.
Director, The North Highland Company
For me innovation is the ability to think beyond the present and to provide insight into how things can be done better, whatever better means to you. To do that you have to be open to outside influence, be prepared to be challenged and to try new things, even if they sometimes fail.
For more from our special feature on innovation, from the Summer 2014 issue of Outsource, go to the index page.