Your company was probably created and funded because there was an innovative technology or idea that led to the development of a unique product or service that satisfies your target market hopefully better than your competition.
Once its first product reaches the market, a company frequently enters a mode of feature enhancements, customer support and quality improvement. For small to medium size firms, these activities usually consume the attention of the entire R&D and product management team and that of the CTO. There is so much to do in order to meet customer expectations leaving little time to continue to innovate.
Beware! It was Andy Grove, the CEO of Intel who said, “Only the paranoid survive”. You need a healthy dose of paranoia that your competitors will continue to innovate and find the next gem that will transform your market landscape, overcome your strengths and surpass you.
If time is a problem, holding monthly lunch & brainstorming sessions with your team is a great way to find new areas to innovate. Invite all levels of the company including new hires. They often have a different perspective on things, but may not feel comfortable speaking out just yet.
Remember, innovation is not necessarily something that requires a patent. It could be a more efficient way of testing, a cheaper way to design or a more efficient code implementation. It could even be a better way to serve your customers.
Boards of directors of innovation-based companies should set innovation targets on a quarterly basis, similar to revenue targets, which will positively influence the company to maintain a culture of innovation.
A true innovation-based company innovates continuously. It does not simply accept status-quo or wait until a good idea presents itself.