Who has time to innovate? Growing a company is hard work. When we announced March was customer experience innovation month, one of the questions I wanted to investigate was the idea of making time for innovation when there is seriously no time.
Growing companies who are faced with scaling their operations, hiring new staff, finding new customers and staying cashflow positive struggle with how and when to innovate. They are hungry and aware of what’s happening in the market and with their customers’ expectations, but can’t always keep up with dedicated staff and resources to innovate. What should they do?
I have a soft spot for companies in growth mode, and I’ll tell you why. They are in the phase where they are moving beyond the entrepreneur delivering an organic experience based on WHO he or she is and deciding exactly WHAT they want the experience to be. It’s a monumental shift, and it’s when I love working with companies the most.
But growth and strategy don’t often mix, believe it or not. As much as grad school case studies and business text books want us to believe if we plan the work and work the plan our success is guaranteed, I’m here to tell you business happens fast. Toss in the last decade of lightning speed communications, shifting customer expectations and other unpredictabilities and it gets really crazy.
Innovation – changing for change’s sake and taking risk to deliver the next great experience – is justifiably shoved to the end of the very long to-do list.
The best innovators simply make time for it. They make time for ideas and collaboration and testing. It’s not easy. But innovation breeds more innovation in many cases. Nordstrom has adopted a fast and iterative process to innovate in their stores to continue to deliver one of the best retail customer experiences out there.
Here are a few ways to add innovation to your list:
1. Schedule collaborative, open sky sessions.
Invite your team, once a month or once a quarter, to “blue sky” the experience you deliver. Don’t be shy – throw everything out there. Make the end game one innovation to pursue. Assign duties. Make it happen.
2. Capture great ideas.
Your employees, customers and partners often articulate brilliant, game-changing ideas that never happen simply because nobody remembers them. Ensure you and your team has a way to capture those moments of genius to pursue when the time is right. With cloud options like Podio, which my team uses, there is really no excuse! (Full disclosure: Podio is now part of a company which is a client, but we used it before that acquisition.)
3. Invite customers into the process.
As much as you want to understand it, your customers are the ones with front-row seats to the experience. Customers are the ones dealing with the small missteps you may not even know about, and they often have innovative ideas to improve the customer experience. The Cancer Treatment Centers of America invite a customer to every board meeting. Allow your customers a voice – a real voice – to point you to your next innovation.
Innovation, like anything worthwhile, is hard work! Make time for it just like you do for other areas of your business.
How do you make time for innovation?