Innovation is at the heart of the corporate world, as it is what allows businesses to remain relevant and grow in different industries.

An innovative product can provide customers with a fresh take in stagnant markets, meeting clients’ needs in ways that are both new and exciting.

However, inspiring innovation within a business is not an easy task, especially in this day and age when companies are still recovering from various macroeconomic challenges, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and high inflation. These situations have prompted business leaders to try to find a balance between cutting costs, driving productivity, and implementing risk measures.

Amidst these challenges, business leaders need to continue to try to foster innovative thinking within their firm and to understand what opportunities for innovation truly exist.

Therefore, here are five ways business leaders can work towards leading product innovation within their business and to inspire the next way forward.

1) Identify the purpose of your product

More often than not, customers do not just buy a product because it meets their needs, but because it does a job, which sometimes is not even its primary function. For example, customers might opt to buy a specific running shoe over another because it does the job of reducing knee pain during exercise. It is not the product’s primary use, but customers will see it as more advantageous than other shoes.

As a result, business leaders need to consider what job customers hire their product to do through extensive market research with existing customers. Leaders should ask themselves whether there are any specific things that the product should offer customers other than its primary function.

This does not only allow business leaders to differentiate their products more, but it also enables them to think differently about ways to view their competitors and to reassess their key targets.

2) Create a work environment that fosters innovation

Business leaders are constantly told about the importance of “company culture” and “workplace communication” for the benefit of productivity. However, they are very rarely informed about how crucial it is to create a workplace culture that fosters innovation.

Leaders need to inspire others to be innovative on the job, and this can be done by possibly introducing opportunities for cross-team collaboration, or by leading with a mindset focused on growth, utilising failures as opportunities to learn instead of the be-all and end-all of the business.

They can also opt to host brainstorming sessions and to encourage out-of-the-box thinking, as well as dedicating a team or committee that is fully dedicated to coming up with innovative ideas without any of the restraints that come with the core business.

3) Determine what your organisation is capable of

The business world constantly presents leaders with a number of new opportunities for them to implement their ideas. However, they can also lose track of what they are able and unable to do at that specific time, especially when they are still starting out and are filled with the excitement of entrepreneurship. It is essential that they remain realistic during vital stages of their business.

As a result, before diving into an innovation strategy, they have to assess their resources, processes, and profit formula in order to execute everything effectively.

Resources include everything from the materials used to create the products, all the way to technology, funds, and employees. Processes are those ways through which the tasks can be executed, and the methodology that the company aims to implement.

The profit formula is that criteria used in order to guide decisions and to see which areas to prioritise.

By listing these different aspects, business leaders can establish a clearer idea of which areas need to be altered in order to make innovation possible.

4) Avoid intertwining disruptive innovations

This might sound counterintuitive, but business leaders cannot simply introduce a wide array of disruptive innovations to one business, especially if it is the one at the core and that has been the most successful at that stage.

Introducing a new innovation to an existing company might end up being too unnoticeable for clients, leading to it possibly being ignored due to the business’s already successful products, or else being changed to only complementing those products, rather than fulfilling its potential.

If business leaders have an idea for a disruptive innovation, they should form a separate business unit to execute it, in order for the innovation to not get lost in the company’s existing strategy.

5) Always think one step ahead

Most importantly, innovation is never a closed chapter.

In order to be innovative, business leaders have to always think one step ahead for the business’s lifespan and future.

They need to be aware of new competitors entering the market, along with new opportunities being presented to the business to disrupt other markets. By fully grasping the bigger picture, business leaders will be able to prepare themselves to take on new possibilities as soon as they emerge, while also knowing what is required and the best way forward.

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