White Paper: The Pursuit of Standard Operating Innovation

The 21st century version of the industrial revolution is underway. New business models are disrupting past strongholds of B2B profitability. Category-killing, technology-enabled products seem to pop up daily. And start-ups targeting our clients’ industry-leading market shares are finding investments at dizzying rates.

In the face of this industry upheaval, how can B2B organizations not just survive but exceed aggressive growth targets? The answer? Achieve a pace of learning, innovation, and performance improvement that matches or exceeds that of their competitors.

Our team at Sparks Grove, in conjunction with our research partner Econsultancy, recently launched the second study in our annual series of B2B research to explore and identify how marketers can enable and accelerate innovation throughout their organization. Our findings were enlightening.

INNOVATION DEBATED AND DEFINED

To start, we explored this initial question: how does “creativity” differ from “innovation”? Interestingly, the marketing community isn’t sure. Some use the term interchangeably while many more see innovation as creativity plus …“something.”  We believe the most useful definition of innovation is generating value from creativity. Because in business anything that doesn’t drive value doesn’t really matter.

DONE WELL, MARKETING INNOVATION TOUCHES EVERY PART OF THE ENTERPRISE

Our results show that organizational innovation doesn’t occur in a vacuum. It’s stimulated by new challenges and opportunities in the marketplace. Highly innovative companies are more likely to have a culture that’s willing to respond and adapt quickly to changing customer preferences. As organizations increasingly put the customer at the center of their strategy, marketing has the opportunity to influence the wider enterprise. For example, over half of innovators report that their innovation efforts have significant effects on executive management and strategy.

INNOVATION IS A PROCESS AND A PRACTICE

Our research also reveals that truly innovative companies look at innovation as a process than can be optimized. They allocate budget and time to foster innovation, measure its impact and critically examine anything in their culture that structurally works against deriving value from creativity.

In addition, allocating the proper think time and physical space is key to successful innovation. A scarcity of time affects planning but perhaps the most frequent impact is an incomplete evaluation and debriefing of experiments—which decreases the impact of testing and diminishes any learning from failed efforts.

INNOVATORS FARM IDEAS

Successful innovators look for ideas everywhere, and that means going outside the comfort zone of internal, senior staff. Some look to partners like Sparks Grove. And some encourage ideas from their organization by formalizing the ways in which junior staff can suggest and participate in new initiatives.

But no matter how they try, solely implementing the process can’t drive innovation. Process definitely helps, but innovation is ultimately a creative endeavor. And most importantly, leaders must recognize that innovation requires an all day, every-day, standard operating approach to achieve the evolution and revolution of a B2B enterprise.  It’s hard work – but done well, well worth the struggle.

Want to read more on the subject? Our full whitepaper from our B2B Marketing Research series is available for a free download here: www.sparksgrove.com/b2b-innovation.

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