Innovation is always in context of customers,stakeholders and society

If  we think of innovation, invariably  we think of radical innovations like the iPhone or Facebook. By doing so, individuals succeed in just beating up themselves and their organizations – and for no reason. Consider that after the iPhone or Facebook started taking off entire industries (eg. smartphone for iPhone) and social media (eg. LinkedIn and Google+ for Facebook)  took off. And if you look within each of these categories innovation was about trying to improve outcomes for customers, stakeholders  and society. Sounds like incremental innovation? Sure but so does the innovation from the  iPhone 4  to  iPhone 4S.

The point is that organizations exist to serve customers, stakeholders and society with customers being first. Things get a little complicated when the customer is defined in error (eg. students are not customers in higher education) or when organizations remember shareholders but miss out suppliers in the stakeholders category. By sharply  focusing on these three groups you can set your innovation agenda. Here are some questions to ask:

  • Customers: Do we understand who our customer really is?  A favorite of this blog is the confusion in US higher education about the student being the "customer," because the student pays. Not so for the purpose of an education today is to enable the student to compete in the global job market of both today and tomorrow. Within organizations, supply managers consider internal  users as customers which is fine, but it is really important to understand the next piece of the users task. Thus,  look closely at your industry and try to define the customer in terms of the real value you provide not just to the immediate internal user but down the user's  value chain. 
  • Stakeholders: are not only shareholders. Consider suppliers including contractors. They care a lot about your organization and would help innovate if only you asked them, preferably early in the innovation process, through early supplier involvement.
  • Society: is really important today because whatever your organization's business you need to consider your impact on society in terms of environment,sustainability and social responsibility. If you market or source overseas  you do  need to look  at  your global social responsibility as well. When your organization cares  about society in the innovation process, customers and shareholders notice and there is a positive financial impact on business as well.Contact StratoServe.
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