“If you aren’t innovating, you’re just waiting for the expiration date on your business,” Maria Ferrante-Schepis.
Competitive businesses are characterized by the development of innovative ideas to keep operations, products and services relevant and up to date. Competitiveness refers to the degree to which a country can produce goods and services to satisfy international consumers’ needs while citizens enjoy a better standard of living. Innovation is an essential ingredient in building private sector competitiveness. Innovation provides businesses with an edge in entering new markets faster, increasing sales beyond national borders, expansion of business opportunities beyond traditional markets, creating employment opportunities, development of efficient business processes and the list continues.
The private sector is central to every country’s economic ecosystem. They have the driving force to keep the business sector changing; being more up- to- date and responding to changing customer trends and needs. Their ability to innovate and expand is the centrifugal force in building competitiveness. Businesses which sell high quality products that rival that of other countries and are able to gain a greater market share in global competition are fundamental in positioning the country as a competitive economy. Therefore, innovative businesses are instrumental in driving export growth, supporting economic diversification and enhancing competitiveness.
Enterprises that are quick and responsive to opportunities to create increased profits through innovation in this uncertain economic environment will not only survive; they will successfully compete and thrive in the face of harsh economic conditions. These companies are smart to use innovation as a strategic, systemic and technological lever for developing agile innovation cultures, efficient business management processes and global industry eco-systems.
Within our local context, some companies have not adapted to innovative trends which have the potential for creating more value for the business. Some companies still do not have a website or email address, stores close at peak hours or are still faxing documents to clients. Business owners should understand that through innovation, employees are empowered to deliver business breakthroughs which helps cultivate a profound culture that promotes faster business growth and business value.
The following are some possible ways in which firms can innovate in order to drive enterprise competitiveness:
- Attract and recruit passionate employees. Their passion can lead to new ideas for revolutionary product or service innovations. Innovative businesses allow employees some time to work on passion projects. Through this strategy they find many new ideas, solutions and successes from these projects. If team members in the business are encouraged to be innovative, this translates to many benefits for the business, while giving them a sense of involvement in the success and profitability of the company.
- Incorporate innovation in every unit within your business. Gillette, in its attempt to build a culture of creativity and innovation launched an internal innovation fair. Every unit was given the opportunity to showcase its most promising new concepts. An award was given to the legal department for its ethics program. This shows that every department can play a role in developing a culture of innovation.
- Train your employees to think like innovators. With some employee training in innovation and opportunities for real world practice, this can significantly upgrade the innovation skills of team members. A pertinent example of this strategy is that of Whirlpool Corporation’s strong innovation performance which stems from the fact that the company has trained more than 15,000 of its employees to be business innovators. Innovation training program should start by helping individuals see the world with fresh eyes and a different perspective.
Innovation is about seeing opportunities and grabbing them. Or being faced with a problem and finding a way around it. In today’s hypercompetitive market place, businesses need to continually adapt to remain competitive. As such, business leaders should avoid the mundane practices of past successes and upturn this with non-linear thinking. New innovative business strategies, practices and models are necessary for competing in the future. Businesses should therefore be observant in identifying distinctive skills required for future clients, technologies, regulations and competitors. This in turn motivates other companies to keep up, driving positive economic benefits and therefore positioning the country as a competitive powerhouse.
About the National Competitiveness and Productivity Council (NCPC)
Established in October 2013, The National Competitiveness and Productivity Council (NCPC) is responsible for the identification of key issues related to competitiveness and productivity in Saint Lucia.
The NCPC and its Technical Secretariat is committed to providing the necessary advocacy and research to produce timely and effective recommendations to policymakers on issues that affect both competitiveness and productivity on island. For more information about productivity or on the NCPC visit www.stluciancpc.org; www.facebook.com/stluciancpc, call 468-5571/5576 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org