Why does innovation seem so hard?
Globalization and the rapid advancement of technology are changing how business is being done the world over, Nigeria not being an exception.
Nigerian companies are increasingly needing to dig deep to stay competitive in a world where our biggest competitors are half way across the world, sometimes, the biggest global players are entering our local markets; think Google, HP, Intel. As a matter of fact innovation is now crucial right from when a new company is founded, the competition out there is now so stiff that one needs to hit the floor running.
The needs of the average Nigerian customer is not as predictable as it used to be, they are changing faster than they have ever done and for companies to stay relevant to them, they need to innovative. I would single out the mobile phone and by extension mobile internet as the biggest factors affecting innovation in Nigeria.
So why then is it so hard for Nigerian companies to innovate ?
Organizations choose to play lip-service to innovation. It is the new buzz word on every managers’ lips. It is what every management discusses at the management meetings. Most businesses the world over have reviewed their mission and vision statements to even include the word “innovation” but it seems they all don’t still get it.
Innovation is a trendy word for Nigerian businesses and it is next to impossible to engage top management in a serious discussion about growth without reference to innovation. I have reviewed the resumes of several mid level managers hoping to join the workforce and it is always clearly referenced in the resumes, they are “innovators”
The sad part however is that it stops right there with the talk and I must confess that this situation is not peculiar to Nigeria alone but generally a global phenomenon. That said however, I believe the Nigerian situation is more dire; we are already at a disadvantage because we lack the infrastructure and systems that easily promote innovation. Most Nigerian own businesses are cost driven businesses and not value driven businesses. In cost driven businesses, the finance man reigns supreme, when this happens, innovation has a tendency to suffer.
Ok, so you understand innovation and your company does to, you want it very badly and you have even began to engage your workforce and the human resources team about creating an environment that will promote innovation. Now look at your budget for the year and let me know how much of it is dedicated to innovation? if you are like most companies I have visited, then probably nothing.
Many still think of innovation in the context of the lone genius, who is responsible for the entire innovation process. Innovation is a collaborative affair and requires the efforts of several stakeholders to be successful.
Where does innovation come ?
Innovation starts as an idea.
Ideas are not enough for innovation to thrive. How many ideas have you heard of personally where you work that never amounted into anything ?
The quality of the idea comes from creativity. Applied creativity leads to innovation, innovation leads to a change of old paradigms.
In one of my next articles, I will talk more on how to actually move an idea all the way to a product /service that not only improves on an older product but actually adds some value to customers.
I will also explore some approaches to innovation