By Alex Konanykhin, CEO, TransparentBusiness.com
We live in a changing reality where companies, regardless of size, strive to stay relevant all the time. For many business leaders, this means ensuring that the company is always equipped with the best technology and human resources capable to manage it.
Although no one would deny that the above is fundamental, the key to corporate innovation relies more on attitude and strategy issues. "Taking the right picture" of the corporate landscape that surrounds us is undoubtedly the first step to innovating, as no one can transform their business without clearly knowing what is its starting point. This "picture" not only includes knowledge of our market and competition, but also early detection of changing patterns in customer's behavior.
So, if we all agree about the need and value of innovating, the question is how to do it? First, you need to identify your main obstacle, which is complacency. An experienced consultant Kevin McFarthing has recently written about this cardinal sin often committed by established companies.
Apart from bringing up the landmark case of Kodak, McFarthing argues that there is nothing worse for a company that to become "a prisoner of its past". That is why, says the author, it makes sense, as an old saying goes, that when it comes to business, "only the paranoid survive". In practice, it can translate into two main attitudes. The first one is to avoid the temptation to think that our market will stay "forever". The second one is close monitoring of our completion, real or potential.
Innovating and transparency
Now, what does "innovating" mean in this era of head-spinning changes? What business schemes facilitate building — and maintaining — flexible, adaptable to change organizations? The answer can be enclosed in the word "transparency", and we can briefly describe it in the points below:
Digital visibility: as we mentioned a couple of weeks ago, managing a successful online presence implies having "fewer secrets" from customers.
Customer relations: in the "hyper-connected" 21st century, communication with customers — real and potential — falls under new parameters.
On the cloud: cloud computing facilitates adoption of flexible work schemes. Without territorial limits, it is possible to build teams based on talent and not on other factors.
Lifelong learning: the value of knowledge in the digital era is not in question. Therefore, motivation of human resources by any company in the 21 century cannot be ignored. To innovate, we need enthusiastic individuals.
Although innovating was always valuable to business, today it has become virtually indispensible. A quick look at the list of the most innovative companies in 2011, according to the magazine Fast Company, confirms it in a compelling way: 8 out of 10 companies on top of the list did not even exist ten years ago.
Far from intimidating business leaders, this information can serve as a perfect thermometer of the digital economy and necessary skills to be its part.