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Innovation in Business

If I had asked the public what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.

– Henry Ford.

Many business leaders and entrepreneurs incorrectly think business innovation is about technology.  While technology is part of most elements of business innovation, business innovation must always be about making changes to the core business of an organization that leads to growth.

Business Innovation

Business innovation is when companies implement new processes, ideas, services, or products with the goal of boosting the bottom line.

It could mean launching new and improved products or services (which can lead to higher revenue), making an existing process more efficient, or solving a current business problem (both of which cut down on costs and save time).

The key element of innovation is that it drives revenue for the company.

Why is business innovation important?

Innovation offers companies four main benefits:

  1. Getting ahead of potential disruption

When done right, business innovation takes stock of where the market is going due to potential disruptors or changing consumer demands. Businesses use that information to make strategic changes and to entice internal employees to be entrepreneurial. Those changes can include building a product or service similar to what new startups are making, buying it from others in the industry, or partnering with the upstarts (known as the “buy, build, partner” model).

  1. Increased efficiency

A lot of business innovation happens by making existing business processes less costly, less time-consuming to complete, and more sustainable. Those changes save time and make it easier for an organization to adapt to industry shifts with agility, which cushions against volatility and risk.

  1. Talent attraction and retention

More than ever, employees—particularly millennials and Gen Z—want to work for mission-driven, fast-moving companies that they believe have a bright future.

  1. Brand perception

Consumers are more willing to buy from companies they perceive to be innovative and socially conscious.

How to Encourage Innovation

Suggested steps to promote innovation are:

  • Make sure you have processes and events, such as suggestion boxes or workshops, to capture innovative ideas.
  • Create a supportive atmosphere in which people feel free to express their novel ideas without the risk of criticism or ridicule.
  • Encourage risktaking and experimentation – don’t penalize people who try new ideas that fail.
  • Promote openness between individuals and teams.
  • Reward innovation and celebrate success.
  • Look for imagination and creativity when recruiting new employees.

The Bible

The Bible has a unique and interesting approach to innovation.

Mark 2 contains a story where John the Baptist’s disciples, as well as the Pharisees, were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”

Jesus answered,

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.” Mark 2:18-22

John the Baptist’s disciples and the Pharisees were engaging in an old and unquestioned tradition – fasting.  What Jesus wanted to do was introduce everyone to the New Covenant, which was a new way to honor and worship God.

Old traditions, such as fasting, needed to change.  The patches on garments and wineskins is a metaphor of thinking outside the box, for implementing new processes, and of making organizational changes.

Henry Ford’s analogy of a “faster horse” is the same idea.  Business innovation needs to have an overall business orientation.  It is not just implementing technology, nor is it making change for change’s sake.  Business innovation is to improve the performance of the business and the bottom line. 

Don’t just sew patches on old wineskins, innovate your business to improve performance.