Innovation – so important. But so confusing…

January 21, 2022

For business owners, plan administrators, and sponsors

Guest post by Max Valiquette

Max Valiquette is an expert on innovation, transformation, and marketing. In this guest post, Max defines innovation and shares ideas on how to spark innovative thinking. 

Your organization is constantly being challenged to meet the evolving expectations of your customers and your employees. And you’re not just feeling the pressure to innovate – you’re seeing the word, reading about the topic (as you are right now), and hearing about it more often than ever before.

The word “innovate” is being used five times more often today than it was at the end of the Second World War. And it’s being used more and more every year 1.

Wired Magazine called “innovation” the most important – but most overused – word in America 2.

So, why does a word that’s so important and used so often create so much confusion for established businesses and the people who are trying to be innovative?

To help the clients I work with better understand innovation, I define it as a process that makes you as valued tomorrow as you are today. Or even more valued.

While very few people have “innovator” in their job titles, we’re all in the innovation business. Each of us has a role to play in unlocking value for our business and our customers. And the appetite for innovation has only increased during the pandemic.

COVID-19 forced us to develop new attitudes and habits like social distancing, working from home, virtual medical appointments and the list goes on. Each of these innovations, large or small, helped us manage through the lockdowns and the uncertainties of the pandemic.

And even though it’s felt like life has been on hold for the past 2 years, the pandemic has spurred a record number of patent filings 3. New technologies that support work from home, or home improvements, being just a few examples.

The pandemic didn’t dull our appetite for innovation. Instead, we’ve never been more open to it.

I want to share a couple of ideas that might spark some innovative thoughts for you.

The stakes are high when it comes to innovation. We can all think of companies that have failed to innovate and ended up losing their leadership positions to a competitor. But very often, disruption drives innovation.

When new players or competition come along, it helps re-frame what our customers’ expectations are. Don’t just dismiss what the competition is doing. Instead, stay close to the customer to see where the market is going and to understand where you need to change or improve.

Another idea is that simplification is a kind of innovation. Consumers have an overwhelming number of brands and choices available to them. But they’re also feeling bombarded by information. By being aware of how complicated things are for our customers, we can find ways to create simple, straightforward, and transparent experiences for them.

And a final thought: millennials make up the largest generation in the Canadian workforce 4. It’s a generation that has grown up with innovation. It’s the norm, and they expect it. These folks will continue to drive trends; and they’re very influential with the generations that came before and after.

Think about how the pandemic affected millennials’ expectations. Question how you can innovate and meet their needs in ways that make your business as valued tomorrow as it is today.

1 Google Ngram (keyword search “Innovation” and it’s derivatives) and Google Trends (keyword search “Innovation”)

2 Wired Magazine, Innovation: The Most Important and Overused Word in America

3 WIPO, https://www.wipo.int/pressroom/en/articles/2021/article_0002.html

4 Canadian Business, Millennials are now the biggest generation in the Canadian workforce

The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Manulife.