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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2003, MCB UP Limited
Inspire, create, connect
The Innovators' Club, which has been in existence for about six months, aims to inspire UK companies actively to pursue innovation. It is based on the premise that innovation is a key differentiator between the merely good and the great companies. Innovation is what turns small companies into larger ones and is what keeps successful companies ahead of their competitors.
The initiative arises from a study undertaken by the Design Council, in conjunction with the Department of Trade and Industry. In this study, senior managers of 50 companies – identified as being among those producing Britain's most innovative products and services in the five years leading up to the Millennium – were interviewed to elicit the secrets on innovative success.
The result was "living innovation", an attempt to create a process to spread the message from those successful companies, to those who would like to emulate them in their own way.
Living innovation is merely a convenient term for disseminating and cross-fertilising good ideas across the length and breadth of British businesses and services – small, medium and large. These ideas can range from simple process changes – something such as speeding up the production of invoices – to projects as large as designing new products and bringing them successfully to market.
The Design Council/DTI research found that if it was well managed, innovation could have a dramatic impact on companies, often transforming the business. It also found that there is no single formula for success – those organisations that were successful innovators had developed an assortment of skills and techniques that allowed them to reach their goals. No two approaches were necessarily the same.
However, three core areas were seen as the key. All the companies inspired their staff and colleagues not merely to accept innovation but actively to pursue it. Second, they worked enthusiastically to create new products and services and, third, they connected closely and effectively with their markets and customers. That is, they positively sought out and established the needs of their clients – and then worked on ways to meet those requirements. So aspiring innovators need to: inspire, create and connect.
Of course, those who would not class themselves as innovative companies may need help to make the transformation. Often this is simply being provided with the confidence to "just do it" – but they may need help with training, or with the use of particular techniques.
Hence, January this year saw the birth of The Innovators' Club – a free service backed by the DTI and sponsors such as the software companies Microsoft and Intuit. Working through the Internet or over the telephone, The Innovators' Club aims to provide a business support service that acts as a filter to help people find exactly what they need.
Peter Soddy, director and founding member of The Innovators' Club, says that traditionally in Britain, innovation within many businesses tended to be cyclical, turned to only when things got tough: "The role of The Innovators' Club is to work with companies, offering free practical advice to help them break this cycle and instil continuous innovation at all levels of their organisation."
But although The Innovators' Club is already offering a wide range of support and advice, it is not stopping there: "In conjunction with Cranfield School of Management, we're starting a quarterly tracking study on the UK business audience looking at the issues that are constraining the nation, getting feedback from them for their view of the type of support they get and the types of support they'd want, in terms of support in the marketplace".
Thus, the club is practising what it preaches: getting the views of its customers and then working to meet their needs.