Enterprises that continue to do things the way they have been doing them in the past soon become history! Innovation is the key to continued success of any enterprise which strives to meet the inarticulate needs of the existing market.
The business life cycle includes inception, introduction, growth maturity, decline and exit. In the inception and introduction stage, an entrepreneur toys with business ideas, their feasibility, business models, their launch etc. It is at the growth stage that new challenges start to surface. One of the biggest challenges faced by entrepreneurs is how to constantly innovate and not get stagnant.
Authors of the bestseller Built to Last, Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras, summarize their findings from 3M and provide key takeaways to drive Innovation at an enterprise:
“Give it a try–and quick!” – Essentially echoing on having a process to try out a lot of stuff, and keeping what really works. The key here is to do something. Keep on trying something new.
“Accept that mistakes will be made.” – Learn from the mistakes quickly, and move on. Failures are part of what leads to innovations. Don’t repeat the same mistakes though.
“Take small steps.” – Experiment, but on a small scale. When something looks promising, go all out and seize the opportunity. This way one can do plenty of inexpensive experiments that create a funnel of would-be innovations.
“Give people the room they need.” – Without entrepreneurship, there is no experiment. Without experiment there is no success or failure. Create time and room to experiment.
Overcoming resistance to innovation
Its human nature to resist change. The strength of habit associated with existing behaviour and the myriad risks of adopting an innovation are the most common factors why people resist innovation. As an entrepreneur you not only needs to look for opportunities to innovate but you need to also understand the psychology of resistance to innovation to be able to execute your decision.
Most of the time innovations are communicated keeping in mind the people who embrace innovation. On the contrary, entrepreneurs need to communicate their innovations considering the ones who might resist! Hence while as an entrepreneur you aim to innovate constantly, communicate it to your employees considering their perceived fears.
When the perceived risk is low but sufficient change in existing habits is required, convince your team on the usefulness of the innovation and hence the need to change habits. Innovations which attempt to replace existing products fall in this category.
Radical innovations and technological breakthroughs like nuclear energy, videophone, birth-control pills are examples of innovations which bring along high risk perceptions. Here your communication needs intensive emphasis on negating perceived negative effects, inducing experimentation.
And there are some ‘No resistance innovations’ like changes in the fashion industry, which neither contain any perceived risks nor attempt to replace existing habits.