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Leadership Lab

How to consistently innovate to stay ahead of the curve Add to ...

This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab

In today’s fast-paced world, innovation is key to business success. Most markets are saturated with competitors seeking to attract and hold the attention of clients. To stand out, offering clients something unique is crucial, whether it’s through new product development or more robust service. Yet, standing out from others, when they too are jostling to make their mark, is no easy task. How do you consistently innovate to stay ahead of the curve?

In my experience, true sustainable innovation stems from the following areas:

Managing enterprise risk

While it’s one thing to drive your company towards success, it’s another to properly safeguard it for the road ahead. True sustainable innovation can only be achieved once the foundation of an organization is secure, requiring a continuous assessment of your business and its processes. Do you have the capacity to meet an increase in demand? Is your company agile enough to adapt with the changing landscape? Once these bottlenecks are identified, you can make sure you have the processes in place to mitigate these potential disruptions and secure your company’s longevity.

Innovating within your core business

When thinking about innovation, it is easy to be led down the elusive path to find the next big thing, which may ultimately detract from your core offering altogether. The route to maintaining profit while allowing for growth is to focus on your core business – your existing partners, products or services. Before setting out to develop something new, take a look at your business health to identify the seemingly small-yet-meaningful innovations that need to be made within your existing framework. Ask yourself: what partner needs remain unfulfilled? Are there services or products you could expand to improve your offering or a new revenue line to add? Optimizing your core business, even at the most basic levels, may not feel particularly innovative but is critical to making long-term impact.

Making innovation part of your company’s DNA

Taking a lean approach to innovation can reap the greatest reward in the end. Consider encouraging staff at every level to participate in incremental improvements, instead of pursuing one large overhaul. This ensures that innovation is not only achieved as a team, but is done so with minimal disruption to your business and stakeholders. Introducing dedicated time for innovation as part of the employee work week means creating a culture of lean innovation – small enhancements, substantial improvements. In turn, staff are further invested in thinking innovatively to streamline business processes that set the stage for business success. Over time, this approach becomes a part of your company’s culture and innovative thinking becomes the norm.

Yet, innovation means nothing if your core business model is not sustainable. The key is to continuously assess and re-assess your company’s core offerings and strategic objectives. Achieving this methodically and in a purposeful way means establishing a committee or board (depending on the size of your company) to review the plans in place. For a larger company or organization, this can take place as a two-part strategic review with your senior management and then with your board of directors. The review process is critical to success, because it ensures unity of vision and consistent peak performance along the way. Hold bi-annual meetings with senior management, the first to formulate strategy for the coming year and the second to evaluate its success. Then bring that strategic framework to your board of directors once a year for review. These fresh eyes and questions will help you identify and rectify any issues with your strategy, while ensuring all important stakeholders are on the same page.

Ultimately, true innovation succeeds in companies with the agility, strategy, and secure foundation in place to nurture it.

Doce Tomic is president and CEO, Credential Financial, Vancouver

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