Digital innovation accessibility and transformation go hand in hand. Explore how increasing digital literacy is breaking down barriers to entry for internal innovation initiatives
‘Innovation’, as a generic concept, has long been seen as the playground of experts: think scientists, researchers, ‘inventors’, ‘futurists’, or even self-defined ‘Innovation Leads’ or Consultants. Innovation regularly appears in job titles, department names and quarterly reports. There are MAs, MBAs and PhD courses in innovation. No wonder, then, that Innovation and the ability to innovate (from the Latin to ‘create something new’) is seen as exclusive, the privilege of the few highly educated and specialised individuals and teams.
Digital Is Here To Stay
The world of Digital and online services is democratising access to innovation, and Digital Innovation is very much here to stay.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought with it many revolutions in the way we work, the methods we use to communicate, and the tools which we use to do business. But one thing that was on the agenda, and very much in motion prior to the recent crisis, was the shift towards a more ‘digital’ way of working. For most companies, this has been manifested in a flagship Digital Transformation programme, a many-headed beast complete with executive sponsorship, IT buy-in and multiple projects to deliver it.
As these companies emerge from the first 3-5 years of their switch to Digital, one area that has surfaced and taken on increasing importance is the ability of the people within an organisation to get the most out of these initiatives – whether it’s using a new system, improving team collaboration, or having cutting edge conversations with clients and customers. This is commonly known as Digital Literacy. The skills of staff across a number of attributes can be measured, reflected on and improved through a variety of learning courses and forum discussions – as well as good old fashioned practice.
And whilst digital literacy, or digital dexterity, is increasingly a baseline requirement for teams to be able to execute the majority of BAU tasks, there is also a more out-of-the-box area that has been democratised, and ever more so due to the acceleration of digital transformation during the pandemic.
Understanding Digital Innovation
Digital Innovation is easy to understand. After all, in our personal lives and experiences, we’re bombarded with e-commerce stores, digital marketing and experience platforms, all delivered through a multitude of digital channels and tools. Whether it’s WhatsApp for communication, Amazon for shopping, or Ocado for food delivery, we all use relatively recent digital innovation examples in our everyday lives. Digital business models are the new normal.
Indeed, with basic understanding of the importance of digital interaction levelled up across the workforce, we can visualise how our day to day tasks and conversations can, and have been, moved online, available at the touch of a button, 24/7. We’ve all seen this shift happen over the last 10-20 years – and it’s only getting faster.
These innovations aren’t necessarily based on groundbreaking new technology. They’re not deep-tech developments like AI, or scientific research projects like drug development. Most of the time, it’s a shift in ‘the way we do things today’ (manual, paper / telecoms based) to a digital delivery mechanism, such as a website, app or service.
With more and more new digital products and approaches emerging, it is easy to see how accessible ‘creating something new’ can be in this space. To be a digital innovator, one doesn’t need a PhD, 20 years of experience, or a research lab. Provided that you have the basic level of digital literacy, an eye for solving a customer problem, and the right mindset and resilience to implement, the road to calling yourself an innovator is a short one. Anyone with enough curiosity and ideas has the space to validate their concepts much quicker, adopting Lean approaches to test landing pages or applications and gather customer feedback and commitments – something that clearly isn’t feasible when creating a new drug delivery device or renewable alternative to common plastics.
Breaking Down Barriers
The Digital world in which we now operate has broken down barriers to entry and reduced opportunity costs for innovation. A more democratic access to innovation environments results in a greater groundswell of ideas, which in turn means more hits. Innovation is a numbers game, and digital has vastly increased the frequency of actionable business ideas in the mainstream.
Providing the right tools, learning and coaching to enable that foundational skillset, in both digital and innovation, is paramount. Get it right, and you could find new digitally-driven innovative ideas emerging all over your teams, solving everything from business process optimisation to Horizon 3 revenue-generating initiatives.
At Studio Zao, we work with teams to build these skills. We believe that companies are neglecting their most powerful innovation resources – the people that they already employ. With Digital Transformations the norm, we can support your teams to harness the power of this new landscape with the accompanying innovation mindsets, coaching them into Intrapreneurs and delivering the next big ideas for your business.
We facilitate these journeys using our purpose-built interactive solution, PROOF, providing intrapreneurs with the accompanying tools required to platform their initiatives and scale collaboration, breaking down silos and cutting through business ideas to ensure that those that are put in front of investment committees are genuine market opportunities.
Written by Chris Baker,
Head of Programmes | LinkedIn