Avoiding irrelevance and moving forward with innovation

Does your business risk irrelevance? It will soon if three fundamental innovation perspectives are ignored, says Berlin School of Business and Innovation’s Alexander Zeitelhack

In recent years, innovation has become a hot topic and a leading approach with regards to technology, and across many other sectors. The need for innovation and the forms it assumes are a fast-changing reality, calling for adjustments and an ability to adapt from those who are looking to make the most of this.

This article offers three different perspectives and some useful pointers to guide you through some of the still-uncharted territories of innovation.

Three key perspectives on innovation

1. There is the need for a different approach to the way we look at things in day-to-day life. When we try to solve the same problems every day, with the same methods and tools, we are ignoring the need and request for progress.

Everything around us is evolving and developing, and we need to be aware that we cannot survive with the ‘endless growth model’ of economy, as firstly, we’d run out of resources, and secondly, there will be no real improvement.

2. Looking at things we cannot account for, whether this is in business or life. These unknown elements are our enemies. Should our competitors find one of those, we could easily be replaced in the marketplace. Innovation, creation and management are the minimum protections against this threat. Combined, they can help to identify potential issues before they arise and, most importantly, allow them to be dealt with in an effective manner.

3. An invitation to broaden our horizons and outlooks. In society, there is always a need for a specific product or service, and then there is the solution, or product, that fulfils this need. This means that if we only look at what we do (inside), then we will miss what is needed on the outside. This would be a failure to reach out to both existing and potential audiences and customers, affecting our results.

Ignoring any of the three perspectives above can culminate in a loss of relevance among people and consumers. This happened to the music industry when it tried to ignore MP3 technology, and it will happen to businesses that ignore climate change.

Investing in innovation

With its ever-changing nature, it might be difficult to identify precisely how much businesses should invest in innovation. This doesn’t only apply to infrastructure, but also to a variety of elements that make for a successful business.

A business should make projections for the market size of a future market segment that it wants to explore, a bit like real estate development. Then the future profit in that segment can be calculated and, I would advise, a fivefold increase of annual profits can be planned.

A business should create a story, or narrative, for its corporate culture to attract more young entrepreneurial thinkers. This will have an effect on employer branding and internal competitiveness.

Having a clear focus on diversity – of gender, culture, language, and age – is also important. For example, younger hires that are grouped into teams with senior management might be able to convince with determination and motivation, in spite of their relative lack of experience.

It’s also a good idea to create a working space that looks and feels different, and that can become a factory of ideas. It’s worth investing in a great architect as well as hiring agile coaches and design thinking experts to lead innovation teams.

Unleash talent

For any business that is looking to make the most out of the competitive advantages of optimising operations to drive innovation and creativity, it’s imperative to begin by getting the next generation of creative, global and diverse-minded managers on board.

Make your innovation process the home and castle that these emerging talents need and don’t let the future leave you behind.

Alexander Zeitelhack is Associate Dean at Berlin School of Business and Innovation (BSBI).  He has also been teaching media management, future research and social entrepreneurship at Nuremberg Institute of Technology for 25 years, where he held the position of Managing Director from 2009-2013.

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