IDC - a technology analyst firm - recently held a Twitter discussion about the way companies manage innovation. As the Product Manager for Ideas here at salesforce.com, I was asked to participate -- and of course, I did, because I believe harnessing innovation in the right way is crucial for businesses today.
In an era of global competition, innovation gives your company an edge; on the other hand, failing to harness new ideas and trends can spell disaster. Check out my answers to IDC’s questions, below -- and leave your own in the comments!
Q1: What does innovation mean to your business?
Without innovation, a company will stay in one place. Without getting ideas from those closest to your product or service - customers, employees, and partners -- it's very difficult for you to create new products and services people will actually use, or improve existing ones as your business changes.
Community innovation can help you connect with customers, partners, and employees in a meaningful way.
As a company, to continuously succeed at innovation, you need to bring in -- and do -- two kinds of ideas:
Big, bold changes get you ahead in the marketplace -- and keep you there. Meanwhile, commitment to incremental, visible improvements encourages a culture of innovation -- employees feel safer giving big suggestions when they know their smaller ones are heard and acted on. In the long run, your best big ideas will come from smaller suggestions that grew into something much greater - and from people who are confident they'll be listened to. At Salesforce, innovation drives our connection to our customers; in many ways, innovation - with and for customers - is our business.
Q2: What are the key business requirements to harness innovation?
There are many, many things needed to harness creativity (innovation & new ideas) to make your business stronger - far too many to be named in a Tweet, or even a blog post! However, a few things do stand out:
Q3: What role does communication play in the innovation process?
Innovation is what happens when your users talk about a bunch of ideas & iterate on the best ones. You may have a lot of ideas, but it ultimately takes a village -- or at least, a community -- to tell you which ones are worth doing. Great communication is the key to innovation.
Innovation is made up of four kinds of communication - four kinds of conversations.
Q4: How do you use social data for development of products and services?
All user data is ultimately social information. Any interaction you have with your customers should be a part of your overall service experience -- your community shouldn’t exist in a silo, any more than your service information should be isolated from Sales or Marketing.
At Salesforce, whether you tweet in to tell us you love a product, post on the IdeaExchange, purchase new licenses, come to Dreamforce -- or all of the above -- it adds to our information about you as a customer, and helps us serve you better. That’s what we’re ultimately here to do, and all the information we have - whether about individuals or in aggregate - helps us do our job better.
Ideas is a part of that big picture; inside the company, we associate ideas with the customers they come from; when you talk to a service agent, they can see your open ideas in the same way they can see your open tickets; innovation is part of your social (person) profile with us.
In the end, all that really matters is how you’re connecting with & listening to your community members - and how you're making sure they’ll come back again, and recommend your business to their friends.
Asking for help with innovation is a great way to become that most-recommended and most successful company-- and communicating around innovation is, in and of itself, a great connection.