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5 Ways to Out-Innovate the Competition

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Have you ever noticed that really successful companies, in addition to being leaders in their respective markets, tend to be driven by innovation? It should come as no surprise that they also tend to be among the fastest-growing and most profitable companies in America, too.
At Clear Measure, we are frequently asked to be a force for custom software innovation. Companies come to us for inspiration on all manner of technology issues ranging from process bottlenecks and complex manual workarounds to modernization of legacy systems and brand new software development. In other words, we have gotten pretty good at helping companies discover, design and build innovative solutions that have measurable, even game-changing, business outcomes.
Based on our own observations and customer successes, we have put together five ways you can out-innovate the competition and establish market dominance for your company.
When you embark on your journey toward greater innovation, you want to make sure you have the best ideas rising to the top. The last thing you want is a small team doing all of the brainstorming. It’s far better to put the collective brains of the whole company to work toward identifying and solving your organization’s greatest challenges. That’s why you should implement a crowdsourcing process. Crowdsourcing allows everybody to contribute to the quest for innovation and feel that they can have an impact. You can do this by having your software team create a simple innovation capture system that helps people suggest ideas in such a way that makes it easy to document, review and track.
Cross Pollinate
The way many forward-thinking companies implement innovation is by breaking down traditional barriers inside an organization. Most corporations tend to operate in silos, which encourages territorialism and resistance to change. Innovative companies, on the other hand, regularly use cross functional teams to ensure key players from a variety of departments have a seat at the table. Gone are the days of top-down decisions happening in a vacuum and IT being charged with implementing new technology. These days, innovation happens in the trenches with teams comprised of different functional backgrounds including operations, finance, customer service, HR and, of course, IT. Get the best and brightest minds from all over your company working together and you’ll be amazed at what can happen.
The Imitation Game
It’s said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Innovative companies are not shy about borrowing from companies that have figured a better way to do something. They regularly benchmark themselves against the competition in order to identify where they need to improve and then do their best to reverse engineer the superior process. In short, play the imitation game and you will see some great ways to improve your business and the bottom-line.
Invest in Innovation
Talk is cheap. Innovative companies know that they must also invest (heavily) in innovation if they hope to realize any benefits: Greater productivity, loyal customers, more revenue, happier employees. To truly enjoy these benefits, the executive team must be willing to commit a meaningful budget to the initiative. The good news is that once you have a fully-functioning system of innovation up and running you will begin seeing a healthy ROI from the investment.
Reward Failure
Innovative companies are not afraid to fail. In fact, most innovative companies embrace failure. It’s where their most valuable lessons come from, and it’s how they get the next initiative right. That’s why you have to be willing to reward failure. But you should do it as part of a rational post-mortem involving your cross functional team and then share the results with the entire company. Everybody needs to learn from failure, not just the executive team. To celebrate the successes, you have to be willing to reward the failures and the related learnings. After all, no company can survive long without taking risks and blowing it from time to time.
Bonus tip: Lean on Experts
One thing innovative companies have in common is a keen awareness of their own limitations. They are not afraid to seek the counsel of professionals with more experience in certain aspects of the business. In many cases, there is more to be gained by hiring outsiders than trying to staff the same function internally. Whether you need a software team to automate an emerging workflow or a marketing survey company to improve the customer experience, you are often better off bringing in experts familiar with your industry and particular project needs.

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