At Ezassi, we work with global innovation leaders who all are constantly grappling with the same big question: where do innovative ideas come from? While there is no definitive answer that can be applied across the board to all businesses and industries, exploring this question helps to shape strategies and find the right balance between fostering internal innovation and investing in open innovation. Simply pursing this question helps companies remain focused on being adaptive and progressive and avoid becoming static in a dynamic business environment.
Innovation is more than just a buzzword, but it does have the tendency to feel like an abstract concept that lacks concrete boundaries that can be easily defined. Most businesses recognize that innovation is essential to remaining competitive, but aren’t sure where to begin. The feeling that there are too many choices can stall progress, especially when leaders fear making the wrong decision.
Where Do Innovative Ideas Come From?
The Main Sources of Innovation
Fortunately, studies show that innovative ideas tend to come from a few main sources, which can provide valuable guidelines on where to invest time and energy. Ultimately, innovation comes from a combination of internal and external sources. According to Incremental Innovation, here are the most important sources of innovation:
- Customers (accounts for 50% of all innovative ideas)
- Marketing and sales department
- Firm leaders
As the end user, it makes sense that customers would serve as an important source of feedback that leads to innovative solutions that drive transformational changes as opposed to incremental. This means that businesses need to actively seek out, analyze and value customer feedback.
Don’t Underestimate Existing Resources
The fact that internal employees also represent a significant source of innovative ideas highlights the importance of tapping into existing resources and creating an environment where internal employees are able to explore new ideas while also spending time on daily tasks. The innovation prescription for most companies includes a combination of internal and external input. Finding the right balance is the true challenge, but recognizing that they are both important is the best first step.
Our clients recognize the importance of not just talking about innovation, but actively working to create a culture of innovation that includes targeted programs that reach throughout every level of the organization. While external collaborators can be valuable resources, time and again, we have seen innovative ideas come from employees who may be underutilized or discouraged from sharing ideas due to the company culture. True innovation comes from being open to a wide variety of sources, including those that may already exist, but simply aren’t being used to their full potential.