Who says innovation has to be difficult for your association? While game-changing breakthrough technologies and new scientific discoveries tend to hog media headlines, it bears remembering: Evolutionary changes (slight shifts in business strategy or thinking) can often be every bit as powerful as revolutionary advancements when it comes to engaging and growing your membership. All too often, at the pace today's market moves, and scale on which market leaders operate, we often forget – frequently, all it takes for organizations to get ahead is just a minor shift in tactics or perspective.
Innovation Success Stories
When L&T General Insurance -- a full-service health, property, and casualty insurance provider -- wanted to find a way to serve the hugely-diverse and hugely-scattered Indian market? Instead of applying a Western business model and attempting to install branches in every remote town and village, and hoping customers would come to it, the company took a contrarian approach. Rather than leverage traditional market strategies, it flipped them on their heads. They equipped insurance agents with smartphones and tablets on which a suite of online, cloud-based apps capable of issuing policies and processing claims on the spot was pre-installed, so agents could go to customers instead. In less than 2 years, it built a $28,000,000 million business that had issued over 100,000 policies
When medical device leader Medtronic wanted to expand its already successful business throughout Western Europe and beyond? It didn't double-down on cutting-edge devices. It reinvented its business model instead, expanding its offerings to include services, and establishing new business units that partnered to put owned-and-operated labs inside hospitals.
Not only has Medtronic increased its business and provided partners with significant improvements in customer service and cost-savings by doing so. Having earned their trust, it's also built a sizable business around ancillary services such as supply chain management and performance benchmarking.
When French telecom giant Orange wanted to double the size of its innovation initiatives, but didn't want to invest millions in R&D or hordes of high-priced working professionals? It decided to outsource the entire process, and offered APIs -- plug-and-play back-end software solutions- - both to internal employees and external developers so they could create new uses for Orange's technologies. Using just one of these solutions, the company has been able to seamlessly integrate social and second-screen experiences from hundreds of film and TV companies into many of its services in under a year.
When Newell Rubbermaid's Contigo brand wanted to find a way to differentiate its products in the hugely-crowded and -contested market for portable containers and cups? It didn't invest a fortune into dozens of abortive product roll-outs, attempting to guess what working professionals on the go would want. It simply studied today's busiest travel sites, where commuters tended to congregate and -- after discovering that passengers were constantly wiping off their mugs' mouth guards on napkins, sleeves, and handkerchiefs. It introduced a new line of travel mugs with special covers designed to keep out dirt.
And when MasterCard needed a new idea for a mobile payment app? It simply put the call out to employees at Innovation Express, a global series of hackathon events where business people, designers, and software developers team up to create new business plans and products in record time. Two days later, Qkr -- which can let you order food from your seat at a stadium, or pre-order school lunches for children right from your pocket without ever setting foot in a cafeteria -- was born.
Innovation for Associations
As an association executive, ask yourself: What kinds of innovative new solutions could your organization produce if you made even the simplest changes? For example: creating online platforms for sharing ideas, salons that routinely brought members from every walk of life and experience level together, or 48-hour jam sessions where everyone was invited to brainstorm new concepts. Can you build them into working prototypes before the weekend is up? And what kinds of simple shifts in positioning and messaging could you make in outreach efforts to help give them a fresh shot of excitement and relevance?
While it's not always obvious to the casual observer, innovation is far easier than you think. All it takes to successfully steer around a challenge, or overcome a problem, is simply a greater sense of perspective, and greater willingness to be more creative with how you apply the tools at hand.
Award-winning professional speaker and trends expert Scott Steinberg is a bestselling expert on leadership and innovation, and the author of Make Change Work for You: 10 Ways to Future-Proof Yourself, Fearlessly Innovate, and Succeed Despite Uncertainty and Millennial Marketing: Bridging the Generation Gap. Among today's leading providers of keynote speeches, workshops and seminars for associations and Fortune 500 firms, his website is www.AKeynoteSpeaker.com.
A critical aspect of remaining innovative within one's organization is ensuring you are able to retain the people with great ideas and foresight. Employee retention becomes more difficult if your compensation package is not competitive -- it must be the foundation of your incentive to keep your people interested and innovating. The 2018/2019 CSAE Compensation Report is the definitive information source for not-for-profit compensation trends in Canada.