The world around us is rapidly changing.
Just think about all big changes that have taken place over the past few years alone, from infrastructure and buildings to technology and everyday products.
Engineering innovation is the force that enables these improvements to happen.
To remain competitive, your business needs to constantly stay on top of the latest technical innovations.
Grant Scott FIEAust, Director of the Venture Capital Institute Australasia and Chair of Engineers Australia’s Chemical College, warns there’s a lot of competition in the marketplace.
“If you're a company that's not innovating, if you just sit still and you accept that that's the best you can do with the product or service you’re providing, then you’re going to be left behind. You have to innovate all the time,” he says.
Meanwhile Chris Stevenson, Innovation Strategist at Impact Innovation, points out there are many big benefits your organisation can unlock by embracing innovation.
They include more efficient work practices, closer connections with clients, better meeting changing market demands, and lower costs.
If you’re looking to drive innovation within your business, here are four tips from the experts:
1. Let your engineering teams lead innovation
When you’re starting or scaling-up an innovation program, the first question that’s likely to come up is who should lead it?
The natural answer is engineers. That’s because engineering is the process of applying science to solve challenges in the physical world.
“Engineers are innovators and problem solvers, because you have to innovate to solve engineering problems. You're not just baking a cake with a set formula—there's quite a lot of variation,” Scott says.
“Engineers [also] need to be very flexible. When you're doing an engineering project, unexpected things happen, whether it's site-specific issues that weren't identified previously, or other aspects like supply or weather that affect an engineering project.”
2, Define the value of innovation to your business
When you’re starting on your innovation journey, an important first step is to be clear about what you’re trying to accomplish with innovation, and the value it can bring to your organisation.
“Too many organisations go into innovation, looking for something bright and shiny, but they can't actually define what it is and how to measure success and how to make decisions. So, for me, it all starts with value,” Stevenson says.
3. Apply a proven framework, such as the AS ISO 56002 Innovation Management System
To take an idea from creation, through development, to commercialisation, you need an objective process for managing innovation.
A proven pathway for doing this is the AS ISO 56002 Innovation Management System.
The AS ISO 56002 standard brings together global best practice innovation methodologies, including Design Thinking, Lean Principles, and Agile.
4. Involve your whole team
While engineers are well-placed to lead your innovation program, everyone on your team should be involved in providing ideas.
As Scott explains, some people are very visionary, and everyone has something to contribute. So it’s important to have open brainstorming sessions.
“Get people together to discuss the issues out there, and what can we do to improve how we do things. Allow freedom of communication, freedom of thought, and then use those inputs to drive [your] strategies."
When you run brainstorming sessions, it’s important to remember that some people might be reluctant to share their thoughts, and sometimes the loudest voices in the room can crowd out the rest.
So it is critical to ensure your brainstorming processes open, so that everyone has a chance to speak.
“Create opportunities within your organisation for people to provide suggestions to the leaders, maybe even anonymously, to say: ‘here are some ideas and opportunities that we think could be valuable', and then recognise those contributions,” Scott says.
“If you get people aligned around a vision, accept that vision, drive it, and actually make it theirs, you can do phenomenal things.”
By Andrew Sadauskas
Want to learn more about how to lead innovation in your business and improve your skills in managing complex innovation systems?
Make sure you join Chris Stevenson for his upcoming course on how to apply ISO innovation management standards to engineering on 9 – 10 November 2022.