Innovation is an important element for any business fighting to stay relevant.
Business-to-business (B2B) companies in particular need to push hard to offer the best product for their customers. As business customers determine what products and services to buy, they are persuaded less by marketing and more by the performance and specifications of what they are buying. Your customers want outcomes, and true innovation will always improve those outcomes.
Giovanni Gamarra is an individual who has first-hand experience using innovation to scale companies in the digital space. At age 23 he was the youngest category manager for global communications company Millicom, handling the launch and growth of three key components of the brand:
Tigo Money: The first mobile wallet integration on an e-commerce site
Tigo Sports: The company’s first sports-exclusive TV channel, which eventually become the number one downloaded Android and iOS app in Bolivia
Tigo Music: A music streaming service for mobile users in Latin America and Africa
Gamarra is currently innovating the digital media industry in his role with Cisneros Interactive, a company that represents Facebook in four emerging countries, with a focus on helping the largest advertisers in Bolivia navigate the digital landscape.
His work involves negotiating advertising partnerships between large organizations, and he has seen the roll of innovation become critical in these negotiations. Following are the top four factors that drive innovation in B2B companies, according to Gamarra:
Get Everyone to Focus on Innovation
“I was fortunate that the companies I worked for in the beginning of my career were heavily focused on innovation throughout the entire organization. Everyone, from entry-level employees to senior management and executives, all had one main goal—become the most innovative and groundbreaking company within the market,” explains Gamarra.
The culture of a company will have a direct impact on innovation throughout the organization. If it’s emphasized from the beginning, every employee is exposed to an innovative way of thinking, which will then grow and strengthen over time. An organization’s culture is the most important factor when it comes to innovation, according to 94% of senior executives.
Identify Innovation Goals
Simply saying that your company will be innovative, without having clearly identified goals, is a recipe for failure. Without the goals mapped out in detail, team members go in different directions, crisscross paths and quickly hit a brick wall, halting all momentum. The only way to achieve innovation is to have clear communication, resulting in goals that have a mapped-out strategy supporting them.
“While working on all of the initiatives at Millicom, it became clear that goal-setting combined with detailed plans to reach each goal, was responsible for our innovation success. The same applies to my current position at Cisneros Interactive, where every goal that we set as an organization to reach higher innovation milestones has extremely detailed micro-goals that all contribute to the big picture,” explains Gamarra.
Give Employees a Voice
It was the exposure to an innovation-focused way of thinking at an early stage in his career that Gamarra credits for helping him find success while working with Millicom. “I was given a voice that mattered; one that would be heard and, provided my ideas were valid, one that would be taken seriously. If you don’t allow your entire team to voice their ideas and contribute input, you could miss out on a big opportunity.”
When an entire workforce knows their opinions matter, you begin to receive and can leverage an increasing number of innovative ideas. Studies show that an actively engaged organization experiences a 240% increase in performance-related business outcomes.
Understand Your Metrics
It’s one thing to collect data and quite another to fully understand it, and use that awareness to innovate. “Company’s need to get into the habit of collecting data on everything they are doing. By analyzing this data, changes and advances can be made that ultimately lead to innovation. I’m exposed to it daily across a wide variety of industries, and it’s the companies that are able to dissect and understand their data that are constantly pushing the envelope,” observes Gamarra.
The sooner you get a grasp on data-collection, the sooner you can leverage it to grow through the introduction of new products and services. Knowing your numbers and what they mean is key, which is why so many companies are now introducing data scientists to their executive teams, with demand for such experts predicted to increase 28% by the year 2020.
Innovation is never easy, but it will always be necessary. Increase your chances of greater success through innovation by focusing your people on the right innovation goals, giving them a real voice, and using accurate metrics to drive your efforts.
Larry Myler: CEO By Monday, Inc., adjunct professor in the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology at BYU, author of Indispensable By Monday.