In today’s business landscape, one trait sets the best companies apart from the rest: innovation. But what is it exactly that makes innovative companies tick?
There’s a paradox that runs straight through the business world: on the one hand, we need to make all the numbers add up. We must report back to our investors and make sure our profit margins are all on track. Too much risk, in this day and age, seems like a barrier to success and growth.
But on the other hand: the greatest success stories of the twenty-first century have come from the most innovative companies.
So what are we to make of this? Is it possible to break new ground while growing into a stable, sustainable company? Many have tried and failed – but the ones who succeeded have gone on to change the industry and the world.
When we think of the top innovative companies on the planet, most of us think of the tech industry. This is no surprise, as major tech icons like Elon Musk, are restlessly seeking what’s next on the horizon. After revolutionizing how we spend money online with Paypal, for example, Musk went on to change the face of transportation (Tesla), artificial intelligence (OpenAI) and even space exploration (SpaceX).
But what about the ways that innovation can improve your company, no matter what industry you find yourself in? Here at Sphere, we know of four proven ways that striking out for something new can strengthen your brand:
Discover your potential for massive growth
In 2015, the Deloitte Innovation Survey recorded 66% of their participants as saying that innovation is an essential aspect of growth. Innovative companies and businesses create new markets, and thus new groups of consumers, and experience major growth as a result. As they scale they can take on additional employees, new customers and take over a larger part of the market.
This isn’t true just for businesses already operating on a large scale – even if your startup or company is small, investing in innovation will help you to grow. Even the most innovative tech companies started from somewhere – sometimes, and quite famously, in a college dorm room.
While some might think this kind of growth comes from introducing a new, essential product onto the market, making incremental changes (or improving on someone else’s invention) can transform a market and lead to market denomination. Evaluating the industry you work in, as well as the place you occupy within it, is key to identifying the kind of innovation that will best suit you and your brand.
Stand out from the crowd
Most of the companies we create or work for operate inside of a specific industry or niche – and we’re not alone. No matter if you’re developing solutions for remote workers or offering consultations for ICOs, you’ll be facing steep competition. Which means you’re going to have to stand out, and there’s no better way to do that than by innovating.
The key here is making something that your customers and clients can’t find anywhere else. This is why disruptive innovation has become such a buzzword – companies are looking for ways to upturn traditional markets and establish themselves as a presence to be reckoned with.
But while ideas of disruption have venture capitalists over the moon with the prospect of major returns, many innovative companies set their sights on making noticeable improvements on prior market staples. While being the company that introduces the Next Big Thing is something we all dream of, developing the Next Better Thing will put you on the map regardless.
Meet needs people don’t know they have
One of the perpetual uncertainties of doing business is that customers are, for lack of a better word, people. And people are constantly changing. Even the best of business strategies can be foiled when user behavior develops in unpredictable ways. Think of how widespread smartphone adoption changed everything from how we shop to the ways we listen to music. Or how ongoing ‘reviewification’ makes it necessary for businesses to woo their customers’ hearts just as much as their wallets.
Some of the greatest success stories of the decade have been how innovative companies like Uber and AirBnb didn’t wait for consumers to be ready for their ideas. They released now-iconic services that gave voice to a need that most customers didn’t even know they had. By creating a niche (and occupying it with abandon) they leveraged the true power of innovative disruption.
By leaning into innovative technologies and ways of thinking, your company will not only weather the storm: you’ll be the one making the storm.
Bring the best talent to your company
One of the biggest benefits for being known as an innovative workplace is how the best talent will be lining up at your door. When it comes to choosing a workplace, the most ambitious and successful individuals overwhelmingly choose the most innovative companies. It eventually becomes a cycle: accomplished individuals improve the companies they work for, which in turn draws even more accomplished individuals into the workforce.
But it doesn’t stop there – the best employees know their value, and they won’t hesitate to jump ship if they feel their current employer’s growth has plateaued. Maintaining your top talent requires making a culture of innovation that keeps them engaged and invested. That said, for many companies the process of creating a workplace where people want to stay eventually becomes a major calling card and branding move.
Today it would be unthinkable for tech companies not to offer comprehensive benefits, flex hours or a ping pong table. The drive to find (and keep) the best talent can improve working conditions across a whole industry.
It’s only natural that many companies want to maintain the status quo. Maybe you’ve found success and you want to consolidate it, sacrificing innovation for a niche position on the market. But the best and most innovative companies prove time and again that keeping ahead of the curve means constantly thinking about what comes next.
By choosing to step out and invest in innovative strategies, you’ll be cementing your market position for years to come. It only remains to ask yourself: where are you being innovative? And what do you need to do to become the Next Big Thing?