3 Characteristics of a Successful Innovation Strategy

by Tim McMullen

Takeaways from my time at the Retail Innovation Conference

“I know we SHOULD be more innovative, but actually BEING innovative in our business is not that easy!” A couple of weeks ago, I spoke at the Retail Innovation Conference in New York. Aside from my own session, I got to attend various other presentations and talk to people from all over the country who are trying to answer the same question: How do I innovate? Here are the 3 characteristics we have seen in all successful innovation efforts:

1. Innovation is a strategy, not a project.

Innovation as a practice creates long term stability and health for organizations. Just like working out — you workout because it feels good now, but the greatest benefit comes in the form of long-term health. Sure, innovation feels good in the short term, but when you do the work to incorporate it as an ongoing strategy, you’re creating a more sustainable future for your company.

2. Innovation needs a creative process.

There needs to be a process in place to help you set down existing constraints so you can leverage the assets you already have in front of you. Without this process, you’ll limit yourself by bringing the day-to-day constraints of your business into the space in which you’re trying to innovate. And you’re likely to miss an innovation opportunity that is hiding in plain sight.

3. Hybrid Ecosystem approach to innovation.

By blending internal teams with outside subject matter experts, creating a hybrid approach to innovation, you can tap your company’s expertise without asking people to do things they either do not have time to do or are not capable of doing. Partnering with technology, market, process, and/or behavioral experts is vital to the success of your innovation strategy. And we don’t just mean “consultants” who will tell you where to go, but partners who will join you along the way.

The Retail Innovation Conference allowed me to step out of the walls of my business and hear from retail industry leaders who are making innovation a company priority. If the top 5 people in your organization do not want to be an innovative company, you won’t be an innovative company. I encourage you to prioritize and embrace innovation using the tips above.

For more about my breakout session, Innovate or Die, with Kirkland’s COO Mike Cairnes, checkout Retail TouchPoints’ recap.

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