What do you think of when you hear the word “innovation”? Honestly, there have been times when I have heard that word and wanted to immediately tune out whatever brand was talking about its latest “innovation.” It has been a buzzword for so long that, at least for some of us, it’s become buzz-free.
But the reality is that innovation still matters, and perhaps now more than ever before. Someone else is always vying for the attention and business of the clients we serve. To repeat a phrase you’ve probably heard, we must continue to “innovate or die.”
Most of us think of innovation as these technological developments that completely change a market. We automatically think about this kind of innovation because these “disruptive” innovations such as the cell phone or social media can have an enormous impact not only on a market but on our entire global economy and cultures. Let’s face it, not many of us will ever think up, much less create and launch, such innovations.
But it doesn’t mean that we can’t be innovative. In fact, I believe every single one of us has the ability to think innovatively (if I can be permitted to use that word) if we clarify what “innovation” actually is.
Innovation = the creation of new value that benefits others
Can that be the development of a cool new technology that renders current options obsolete? Sure! But it can also be as simple as thinking differently about a business process and making a change that saves your team hours of effort and your company thousands of dollars. For example, a colleague at a college where I used to work figured out how to leverage tools we already had in place to automate the process of creating and completing teaching contracts with adjunct faculty. The improvement reduced the time it took to complete the process from 3-4 weeks to 3-4 days and even notified payroll of the schedule for associated faculty payments. Here at Accutech, we recently developed a new tool set that will save our clients significant time and reduce data entry errors associated with opening new accounts, and make them look like tech leaders in the process.
This kind of thinking shifts the innovation focus from coming up with something shiny to generate a lot of money to simply creating something that delivers real value to others. I heard Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak say something once that really stuck with me — “innovation isn’t about the technology we create, it’s about the humans we help.”
Adopting this definition of innovation makes it way better than a “buzz” word — it gives it some teeth. It turns innovation into a purpose that we can actually get our arms around. It’s exciting to get up every day and think about how to help create value for those we serve — our leaders, our colleagues, and our customers.
Can you be an innovator? Yes! Yes you can. Start by asking yourself what new value you can create for your humans. Who knows what you may think up!
In the spirit of giving credit where credit is due, my thoughts on innovation have been shaped in part by the writings and research of late Harvard scholar Clayton Christensen, and more recently by Nicholas Webb and his book The Innovation Mandate. If you want to dig deeper into innovation, studying these two would be a great place to start.
Authored by: Dan Wright