HBR | November 2014 Issue
Hear the word “innovation,” and you might think of an R&D lab, a design group, or a start-up venture. But today innovators are in demand everywhere—from the factory floor to the salesroom, the IT help desk to the HR department, the employee cafeteria to the C-suite. Innovation isn’t a department. It’s a mindset that should permeate your entire enterprise.
No matter the venue, the feedstock for innovation is insight—an imaginative understanding of an internal or external opportunity that can be tapped to improve efficiency, generate revenue, or boost engagement. Insights can be about stakeholder needs, market dynamics, or even how your company works.
Several Fortune 500 companies have been founded on a single insight about what customers want. Starbucks brought a little bit of Italy to coffee shops. Home Depot gave do-it-yourselfers access to professional supplies. The Body Shop was built on the notion that buyers of beauty products care about humane animal-testing practices. Inside your company, insights can lead to more-efficient operations, simplified processes, or leaner structures.
Insights can be powerful, but how do you find them? Should you brainstorm with colleagues? Sift through masses of data? Simply introspect? Or carry on as usual and wait for the proverbial apple to fall on your head?