By Mukesh Bector
Time only moves in one direction, and with it we must keep evolving. Technology has become central to our development as a species and is likely to remain so. In an upturn, people invest in it to grab market opportunities. In a downturn, they invest in it to drive efficiencies and minimise costs.
If we are to address the world’s social, economic and environmental challenges, we need to draw on our best resource. Innovation. Those who can sustainably harness technological innovation will be the winners of the future. There will always be room for new ideas and solutions, enabled by technology.
But this begs the question; how can organisations around the world nurture innovation?
There is no silver bullet, but there are some simple steps that can help. These include:
Have a focus: innovation works best when there’s a problem to solve and a brief to meet. This doesn’t mean being restrictive, it’s about knowing the result you need to achieve. The more you focus your innovation efforts, the greater the chance that you will come up with a creative solution. For Epson, innovation is meeting its customer needs sustainably.
Have a foe: competition is a key enabler of innovation. Fundamentally, it forces organisations to innovate through differentiation when it comes to their product offerings and business models. At Epson, we differentiate by focussing on inkjet printers over laser. Having recently announced that we will halt the sale and distribution of laser printers by 2026 owing to environmental concerns, the business aims to eventually displace laser altogether.
Invest in knowledge and training: investment in R&D yields the critical technology from which organisations can develop new products, services, and business models. But for R&D to deliver value, its role must be woven centrally into the organisation’s mission. R&D staff need STEM skills – now and in the future – and these need to be valued. To foster innovation, organisations need to allow employees to explore and learn new skills and understand the cutting-edge developments in science and engineering[i].
Have a catalyst: innovation needs to be a priority and for that to happen, you need a catalyst: a source of inspiration to others, a champion for new ideas, and a force of creative energy. But a catalyst can both be tangible and intangible. Whether it’s a structure, a leader or a plan that sparks people into action, someone or something needs to begin the chain.
Collaboration: for innovation to thrive, it needs an environment that champions experimentation and the co-creation of bold and visionary new ideas. Few organisations can do this alone. For example, Epson is breaking its long-established structures to drive more collaboration within and beyond its business. Launched as Epson X in 2020, Epson has a dedicated venture capital innovation fund to accelerate collaboration and innovation. It aims to combine Epson technology with other know-how to solve societal issues around the globe.
Execution: a great idea is nothing unless the structure exists to realise it. For innovation to be successful, operations, manufacturing, processes and organisational structures need to be in place. This includes having the right teams and tools, supported by effective collaboration and decision-making as innovation progresses from idea to selection and then execution.
Innovation rarely happens by chance – there is no shortcut and no substitute for the factors that lead to it. To navigate this complex path requires organisations to follow the recipe, building the right ecosystem and taking a strategic approach to identifying, then backing and supporting the innovations of the future.
Those who get it right, will be the ones that reap the rewards.
The author is Epson Regional Head, East and West Africa.