What Is an Innovation Consultant?
An innovation consultant delivers advice, guidance, and direction to businesses seeking new growth and business strategies. Innovation, in this context, ties directly to creating more value for your customers.
That value could represent many different things, not just technological advances, as many tend to associate it solely with this sector. In actuality, it’s applicable across many industries.
Do Business Leaders Prioritize Innovation?
In looking at the innovation landscape, it’s on the radar of most growth-minded leaders. The McKinsey Global Innovation Survey found that 86% of executives believe it’s key for growth. However, only 6% feel the current innovative efforts support this.
Yes, everyone is on the innovation bandwagon. The execution, however, is off the rails. Much of that comes down to either a lack of a strategy altogether or one without a clear direction. If this is where your business stands, then hiring an innovation consultant can provide the catalyst you need to rethink innovation.
How Can an Innovation Consultant Support Your Company?
Depending on your industry, needs, and other factors, an innovation consultant can be a pivotal resource in your journey. Here are some examples of how they work to support businesses.
Finding What’s Broken and Fixing It
Your company likely has processes and workflows that aren’t efficient or effective. If a company’s culture doesn’t celebrate continuous and incremental improvement, then things don’t change.
Processes become stale and could be doing more harm than good. If employees spend a large amount of time developing workarounds, they aren’t innovating.
Look to an innovation consultant to identify the brokenness in your organization and provide actionable solutions to improve them.
Entering with a Fresh, Unbiased Perspective
Leadership and employees have biases. There’s no way to remove them. It’s because they live the work every day. They are simply doing, not ideating. Tapping an innovation consultant to study and analyze your processes will bring insights that those in the weeds don’t see. Plus, their viewpoint is objective and not influenced by pre- or misconceptions.
Redefining the Organization’s Vision
An organization's vision can certainly evolve, but it can become murky when it’s not specifically defined. Further, there could be competing visions among stakeholders. Innovation consultants can help get everyone on the same page. A consultant can do this by spending time with different groups and departments, learning from them what makes the company unique.
A vision shouldn’t be some unquantifiable, vague theory, or aspiration. It should be a concrete plan that outlines where the company is heading and how to get there.
Offering Opportunities to Conduct Business in New Ways
Consultants and their fresh perspectives often offer ideas around new ways to conduct business. These may include new sales channels, diversifying products, or any other revenue stream opportunity. The most successful businesses do this with precision.
Uber isn’t a rideshare company. Now, they deliver food and even have a program called Uber Health. Likewise, Samsung isn’t just a tech and electronics company. They are a big player in life insurance in Korea. They build ships and contribute to the healthcare industry.
An experienced innovation professional brings to the table past experiences and successes that could translate well to your business.
Some businesses will have apprehension about new or unknown opportunities. An innovation consultant can assist with developing an execution plan to test new waters.
Crafting New Growth Strategies
Building upon the opportunities, innovation consultants are masters at developing new growth strategies. These will align with the company’s vision. Strategies provide organizations a blueprint of how to seize opportunities and create a pipeline of new revenue. They can help you size up a market and identify gaps that will resonate with the audience of buyers.
Upskilling Your Team
Another way innovation consultant delivers value to clients is by developing their teams. Employees are any company’s most valuable resource. They just may need support, which often occurs due to a skills gap. Consultants can identify what roles need new training, which, in turn, can generate more innovation.
One example is companies that want to implement agile software development. Agile transformation relies on a set of principles from the Agile Manifesto. It’s a shift away from waterfall approaches and embraces flexibility, collaboration, and transparency to iterate faster and better.
Staff may know about agile in theory but need additional support to make this transition. An innovation consultant can create a plan to upskill teams, removing the roadblocks to transformation.
Benefits of Working with an Innovation Consultant
Innovation consultants can provide substantial value to your business, as documented by what they do. The role they can play serves up a host of benefits as well, including:
Improving product development by analyzing opportunities, creating more effective processes, and ensuring marketability.
Saving time by enhancing productivity.
Reducing costs by removing barriers, enhancing workflows, and being strategic in all growth initiatives.
Tracking trends by tapping into their expertise and having a deep understanding of the industry.
Implementing new technology and processes that expose employees to better ways to complete tasks.
Making connections to other experts that can accelerate growth strategies.
In all of these benefits, there is one constant businesses can expect from innovation consultants—learning. Through every step of the process, your organization will learn. They’ll learn more about your business model, the market, trends, ideas, and, of course, innovation. If your company wants to foster a culture of learning, an innovation consultant can assist you with hitting this goal.
How Does an Innovation Consultant Protect Innovation?
One of the most critical responsibilities of an innovation consultant is to protect innovation. As the consultant begins dissecting your company and its growth blockers, he or she is not only looking to incite innovation but also safeguard it. There are two types of protection.
First, there’s legal protection, including patents and trademarks that protect intellectual property (IP). Innovation consultants usually have some IP experience and can offer guidance on this.
Second, there’s the act of protecting innovation from noise, fears, and objections. Innovation consultants are innovation champions and crusaders. They can filter out and respond to negativity about change and evolution. There will always be detractors because no one “likes” change. However, without it, no business can harness innovation.
When Should Organizations Seek Out Innovation Consultants?
There are many reasons to hire an innovation consultant. If your organization is going to invest in this expertise, it needs to be ready for what comes next. In an ideal world, certain events can trigger the need. It could be external, like a global pandemic, or internal, like new leadership.
If there are “optimal” times or situations to engage an innovation consultant, these would be at the top of the list.
New Competitors Are Emerging
If your organization has long held market share and is seeing encroachment, it’s a good time to boost innovation. In most scenarios, the incumbent has been around some time, and there’s a chance complacency is occurring. Competitors may be seizing on this, so it’s time to kickstart your innovation engine.
R&D Is the Only Source of Innovation
Many businesses believe their R&D is a hub of innovation. While they can provide prototyping and usability studies, these teams often live in silos. They may have use cases to validate new developments, but they may be operating without context. They don’t understand user needs, business objectives, or market variables.
Innovation consultants can complement R & D and develop other innovators in the company that can continue to hold this role, so innovation is a constant throughout the enterprise.
Internal Innovation Initiatives Are Failing
If a company rallies its innovators to do just that and then doesn’t deliver, it’s a failure. It doesn’t mean the employees aren’t bright and full of ideas. They might be unable to translate those into revenue. Ideas aren’t hard; executing them is. Sustaining them even harder.
Many amazing ideas crash and burn because of execution problems. Does anyone remember TiVo? It was one of the first DVRs (digital video recorders). They failed to protect their innovation and market it successfully. Now everyone uses DVRs, just not TiVo.
Further, lots of billion- and trillion-dollar companies have not been able to make returns on innovations. Think Google Glass, Microsoft SPOT watches, and Nike’s Fuel Band, to name a few.
The innovations of your company may be much smaller in scale than these examples, but they are still prime examples of innovation failures due to execution. If your team is stalling here, get outside help.
Solutions Need to Evolve
A company’s solutions solve current problems. Those can change, sometimes rapidly. When these triggers happen, brands need to evolve. For example, companies often spot opportunities based on how customers use their product that has synergy with their current product suite.
This triggers the need to create something new for the same audience. A relevant case study that illustrates this is Amdocs, a well-known software company that serves telecom. Looking at the shifting priorities and objectives of customers, the company identified e-learning as a new line of business. E-learning wasn’t new, but it was new to them. With a comprehensive product strategy in place, the organization successfully innovated and deployed the solution.
Is Your Business Innovation-Friendly?
It’s a simple question to sum up these thoughts above, but not one a company can answer definitively without some soul searching. Your leadership cares deeply about innovation but may be unable to quantify its value or support it. If that’s where you find yourself, then an innovation consultant could be the best hire you make in 2020.
Innovation often requires strategizing, implementation, and optimization. Those are the core competencies of Icreon. If we can be of assistance in your journey, connect with us today to learn more.