We all know that organisations must innovate to stay ahead of the competition. Even if your original concept blows all the others out of the water, over time, if you don’t channel resources into constantly rethinking and reshaping your offering, you are likely to fall behind. This is inevitable.
However, innovating as a start-up is much easier than innovating as a scaling, growing company.
Start-ups tend to be built on a premise of innovation. They have a small number of imaginative, hungry staff, a lack of structure constraining them, and one big idea. But as start-ups experience product-market fit and start to scale as a result of their success, they need to continue to be just as imaginative, while implementing organisational structures that help them to stay on top of a growing number of staff.
That is why I believe in remaining upstream.
This means we get to try the big ideas – even those that seem entirely unachievable- to see if they stick and make it through to our Innovation Lab stage, where they are ready for a business case.
What is the Innovation Lab?
Our Innovation Lab is a programme which allows the team to explore ideas that run parallel to our core product roadmap. Through the Lab, we can explore what it truly means to innovate. We work with innovation partners and create projects that directly benefit our merchants and the end-user – all the while putting structures in place to help streamline the company as we scale.
When a product graduates from the Innovation Lab stage, has a solid business case and some potential customer interest, then we move into actual implementation.
Working with this lifecycle is a fantastic way of remaining innovative. It gives us the space to try all our ideas, without risking taking unviable projects through to implementation. It also means that we have all the freedom of a start-up to throw ideas at the wall, without the risk of failing.
How to identify innovation
When considering innovative projects at Credorax, we look for innovation partners and existing technologies that have a certain degree of maturity. For example, nothing that’s too far in the future (i.e. quantum computing), but also not something that’s already been successfully commoditised (i.e. Big Data).
However, when considering these ideas, it’s key not to get caught up in the hype too much. Often, there’s a tendency to believe that technology is better than it is just because it’s new. For example, while AI is a powerful tool, it’s important to understand its limitations – it must be fed high quality data and humans will always be needed to train and validate AI-made decisions.
Which basically means that you must be careful when pouring your resources into innovation; poor or hasty implementations can scare away investment in technology that actually has promise.
Which is why I believe that innovation must start with the business problem you’re trying to solve, rather than the pursuit of tech innovation for tech innovation’s sake.
Innovation in action
When we decided to partner with Samsung SDS on a brand-new initiative, we came up with our solution by taking a technology with a certain degree of maturity (blockchain), and applying it to solve an actual customer problem (account reconciliation).
After checking that no one else was already doing it, we moved forward from there, to find an innovation partner for the platform.
However, it’s important to recognise that we came to the table with a ready-made concept which had already been developed, and a demo that we could use to explain the idea. So, we had put in the preparation to ensure that the product was ready when the right partnership came along.
In other words, you can innovate as a growing company with structures in place, by using those same structures to your advantage.
And while the excitement of being a start-up may lie in having the freedom to use your imagination and go left of centre, the thrill of the Innovation Lab is that we get to come up with ideas in a safe environment, without taking unnecessary risks.
Find your Greg
My last piece of advice to consider when exploring new innovations is to remember that scepticism from both internal and external allies is not a setback. It is an opportunity to challenge your choice of technology and the assumptions you’re making.
We introduced a ‘Greg test’ when developing our blockchain project. If our VP R&D and IT Operations, Greg was on board, if he agreed that there was no simple way of solving the problem without blockchain, then we knew we on to a winner. Find your Greg. Find the person or people who will challenge the innovation you’re chasing, and then embrace their opinion to challenge yourself.
To find out more about how we can help you grow your business while staying ahead of the innovation game, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.