4 Ways to Be an Innovative Leader in a Conventional Industry
Startups and new technologies are popping up constantly. Geographic limitations are being lifted as nearly everything becomes globally connected. The explosion of data — and the associated potential for analytics — has changed the playing field on which companies compete.
All industries must continue to innovate and improve to keep up. Let’s embrace change, collaborate, and empower our more conventional industries to move forward.
Regardless of industry, resistance to change happens because the fear of change is greater than its perceived benefits.
My field of healthcare, for example, is adopting new innovations all the time, but historically that process has been slow — one clinician at a time. Innovations don’t become standards of care until long after they’re introduced (17 years, on average). The focus is typically placed on the interaction between clinicians and patients. However, everything that goes on behind the scenes can play just as big a role in providing high-quality patient care as that direct relationship. As a result, less attention is given to revolutionizing indirect facets of the healthcare experience, meaning there’s low-hanging fruit waiting to be picked.
The transformation the healthcare industry is undergoing presents an opportunity to take a step back and re-evaluate how and where it can be improved. Moreover, for all industries, it offers an example of how important are the perceptions of risk and reward. The value created must be seen as greater than the potential hazards introduced.
How to Spark Innovation in a Conventional Industry
Here are some ways leaders can spark innovation in any industry:
- Start small. Pick a specific area of interest. Find the smallest aspect of that specific area you can practically adjust, and modify it for the better. Be prepared to use what you learn from that effort to expand to larger areas until you’ve built the momentum necessary for broader change.
- Build empathy for both direct and indirect customers. What goals are they trying to achieve in the small area you’re focused on? What do they like and dislike? What are the unintended consequences of their current ways of operating? Whose needs are not being adequately met? Understand the pain points so you can identify a way to help.
- Iterate. A minimum viable product is one that “maximize[s] validated learning for the least amount of effort.” Use rapid iterations to make your product better. Always involve your customers in the iterative expansions by keeping them front and center so you build what they need.
- Be patient. Understand that idea adoption takes time, and be careful not to waste it. Spend your energy where it will have the greatest effect. Work toward understanding both hesitations and interests so you can find the driving force behind innovation adoption. And, above all, look for opportunities where people are the most anxious for a solution.
How to Get Other Leaders on Board
To get colleagues on board with innovation, you need to understand their motivations. Why are they interested in your idea? Why did they decide not to participate?
Once you identify the motivating factors, collaborate with them to propel the idea toward adoption. Align your incentives with your colleagues’ incentives.
Also, invite them into the innovation process. Build empathy for those you work with, just like you do for customers. Brainstorm together, and follow up frequently to make sure you’re all on the same page.
Lastly, understand that colleagues might not be ready to join you sometimes. But don’t write them off — maybe you aren’t communicating clearly. Take the time to locate and understand the disconnect.
Remember, what’s conventional now was once groundbreaking, revolutionary, and innovative. So take the leap: Recognize good ideas for what they are, and don’t be afraid to become tomorrow’s leader.
Scott Alexander is vice president of sourcing, innovation & marketing for ROi in St. Louis, Mo. Scott is responsible for overseeing ROi’s strategic contracting and sourcing division, which helps healthcare providers manage the evaluation, selection, contracting, standardization, and utilization of all products and services necessary for patient care and ROi’s innovation efforts that identify, develop, and commercialize new solutions to supply chain-related issues to reduce the total cost of care for healthcare providers.
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