Innovation Goes Beyond Technology

The term “innovation” is widely used in the business world. We often refer to individuals, teams, companies, and innovative sectors. In my lifetime, I have witnessed innovation leading to the birth of new business ideas and models, new products, services, and processes. The rise of disruptive innovation has made certain products obsolete, and entire industries have been revolutionized. Technological advancements have been at the heart of many innovations, and new technologies continue to emerge. Many businesses implement new technologies such as mobile banking to remain relevant. Most banks, for example, do not want to be left behind in digital transformation. Indeed, businesses have failed because of having a myopic view of new technologies. As a result, many people mistakenly associate technology with innovation. Technology is not the same as innovation.

We must recognize that innovation is not limited to technological advancements. Non-technological new products, packaging, services, processes, and business models are being developed at a rapid pace. A novel packaging design that is simple to open, for example, may have nothing to do with technology and everything to do with creativity. There’s nothing technological about a new employee reward program that allows employees to contribute their reward points to charity. Sectors that aren’t significantly reliant on technology are still innovative. A hawker on Kenyatta Avenue can come up with a unique marketing approach for his items. He can, for example, determine what to sell at different times of the day based on market demand. Small businesses across industries continue to innovate. Who’d have guessed that boiled eggs with Kachumbari would be so popular? That too is innovation.

Innovation, in my opinion, is a strategy and a mindset that must be considered beyond technology. Innovation is alive when we continue to develop creative, new, and useful ideas for ourselves and our businesses every day. Every smart business needs a purposeful effort towards incremental innovations. In reality, a business as an entity cannot innovate; only its people can. Innovative ideas can emerge from anywhere in the organization. Smart businesses need a systematic and conscious search for innovative ideas. Leadership must first create an environment where creativity thrives and continuous improvement is valued. Successful innovations, no matter how modest or large, must be recognized and rewarded. It is time to embed innovation into our culture and look at it beyond technology. What is the message around innovation in your business? Is it all about technology?

Perhaps we need to be more creative in how we onboard new employees, how we develop high-performing teams, and how we motivate existing employees to stay with us. In the design of non-technological products and services, we need to be creative. Our company’s success depends on innovation. Not only do new products and services arise from innovation, but so do better products, services, and processes. Being innovative helps our businesses stand out from the crowd; it gives us a competitive edge. To survive in the marketplace, we can no longer vegetate or expect technology to do the magic; we must continuously innovate as part of our overall business strategy. We need to be on the lookout for non-technological innovative ideas from both our businesses’ internal and external environments.

Dr Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer. Connect via Twitter @KiruthuLucy

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