All companies, regardless of industry, must do their best to disrupt the status quo and stop relying on aging cash cows. Digital disruption is reaching even the most remote corners of the business world. For example, many people might not have thought of digital transformation in the metalworking industry—that is until Alcoa recently brought 3D printing to their metal powder manufacturing.

The problem is that many companies don’t have a proper definition of innovation in mind when they start their digital transformations. We’ve discussed the 5 telling signs of an innovative company; but it’s important to take a step back and set a definition for good innovation.

A Basic Definition of Good Technology Innovation

Innovation should never be forced. When you finalize a digital transformation project, it should just feel right. This seamless innovation is defined by three key characteristics: iteratively fast,  pointedly collaborative, and above all execution-oriented.

Without a complete understanding of each component of good innovation, your digital transformation projects will only introduce business risk and frustration throughout the organization.

Working Fast Isn’t an Option—It’s a Requirement

In a presentation about digital transformation at the 2016 World Economic Forum, Meg Whitman said that the future belongs to the fast.

Innovating with traditional 3- or 6-month project strategies will prove too costly and aren’t efficient enough to keep up with the smaller, more agile companies that are prepared to disrupt your market.

Shifting to a more iterative, sprint-based process is essential for good innovation, because it enables you to be more experimental. As long as you’re fostering an open and honest culture that does not punish iterative failures, experimental ideas can lead to digital transformation projects that epitomize good innovation.

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Good Innovation Is Grounded in a Team Approach

Collaboration is an integral part of good innovation because aligning all project team members is the only way to execute your digital transformation idea. Innovative ideas come naturally when you create small, cross-functional, co-located teams—so long as these teams are entirely focused on their innovation goals.

When you don’t establish dedicated teams for innovation, it’s easy for innovation moonlighters to get distracted by typical business operations and let digital transformation fall by the wayside. Moonlighting innovation might get you an inkling of a good idea; but there’s almost no chance for you to take that idea to the final stage of good innovation—execution.

Execution Is the Linchpin of Good Innovation

Innovation is nothing without execution—you could have all of the best ideas but if they never go into production, you’ll never achieve successful digital transformation. As Jake Knapp explores in the Sprint book, the brainstorming sessions that people rave about in innovation discussions are only as good as their execution. In these firestorm brainstorming sessions, plenty of good ideas come up but few actually make it to execution.

Knapp writes that people who have more time to think (those who are part of dedicated innovation teams) are far more likely to come up with a good idea and actually follow it through to execution. You might adopt the “try fast, iterate fast, fail quickly, and stop” motto for digital innovation, but if you aren’t actually executing your ideas then you’ll never truly innovate.

You’ve Defined Good Innovation—Now What?

Even if you know the definition of good innovation, practical innovation requires much more strategy and redefinition of company culture. With this definition of good innovation in mind, you can start creating your own innovation practice.

If you want to learn everything necessary to build your own innovation practice and start executing successful digital transformation projects, download our free eBook, The Four Ways Companies Innovate & How to Set Up Your Own Innovation Practice.

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