As mentioned in the article „Creativity: The ability to develop new products and services„, creativity is one dimension of the Innovation Competency. The second one is timeliness as the supplier’s ability to contribute early enough to enable customers to recognize value, outlined in „Timeliness: The ability to enable customers to recognize value„. The third and fourth dimension is energy and breadth.
Energy in search for continued improvement
A third innovation dimension involves energy. The energy brought to a situation – manifested in the search for continued improvement; for “win-win-win” opportunities; for ways to reduce costs and enhance productivity; and for new opportunities to bring new business models to market – is reflected in the degree to which a supplier is proactive and forward thinking. For example, initiating discussions around problems, challenges, and changes with buyers as well as working with key customers to meet business goals increases a supplier’s capability along this dimension.
Questions to consider along this dimension include:
- Does my organization initiate research to anticipate problems, challenges, and changes?
- Do we have a dynamic, lively, vigorous corporate culture?
- Does my company promote activity to raise expectation and performance on a consistent and constant basis?
Breadth of the supplier’s focus
In addition to creativity, timeliness and energy, the final critical Innovation Competency dimension is the breadth of the supplier’s focus (e.g., across topics, markets, divisions, business functions, geographies, etc.). The more dimensionality that exists, the more likely the supplier is able to develop a vast pipeline of interesting and viable ideas. Sometimes, the most important innovations are initiated in the most unexpected situations.
For example, Boeing is one of the world’s two largest aircraft suppliers. The company offers a variety of services, including training/navigation/simulation services, parts, maintenance and much more to help airlines reduce costs, optimize fleet usage, and upgrade or reconfigure their airplanes. Additionally, Boeing recognizes its strengths in information and now offers professional services that combines its expertise in in information technology and aerospace to help customers reduce risk and increase efficiencies. The Boeing Professional Services team looks at the fleet’s age, aircraft routes, and customer processes and operations to uncover the root cause of whatever is holding an airline organization back in their business operations.
As the above example highlights, innovative contributions come from unanticipated areas. Blue Canyon worked with a food services supplier that made a significant contribution to its restaurant customers with menu development. In another example, a manufacturer well known for its superior human resources capabilities began to offer its key customers access to learn from them. In Blue Canyon’s experience, many organizations have “pockets of excellence.” Understanding how to identify, harness, and scale these capabilities can fuel the innovation pipeline.
About the author
Atlee Valentine Pope is president and chief executive officer of Blue Canyon Partners, Inc., and the co-author of the growth strategy book CoDestiny: Overcome Your Growth Challenges By Helping Your Customers Overcome Theirs. In addition to overseeing Blue Canyon’s operations, Atlee works directly with a number of clients to produce market-driven answers and actions plans that foster profitable growth. More recently, Atlee’s work has included helping clients in areas such as channel management, strategy implementation, pricing strategies and adjacencies.
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