How to Innovate in an Over-Competitive Digital Economy

Businesses all over the world are facing the same problem: Competition in their industry is growing too fast for them to keep up, thanks to the digital economy. Corporate leaders and small business owners alike are struggling to overcome obstacles like politics, pricing, internal disagreements, cultural issues, budget constraints, and more.

But innovation is required for businesses that want to remain competitive and make their mark. It might seem like an elusive goal, but it is possible if you’re willing to put in the work. Here are some ways that you can innovate despite the competition and obstacles that surround you.

Seek an External Partner

In a recent Forbes article, William Arruda wrote about the success of the firm Cie Digital Labs, a corporate innovation accelerator that was named the Most Innovative Company of the Year with under 100 employees. Arruda identified several obstacles that many organizations face, noting that “although some…corporate innovation barriers have to be sorted out internally, many…problems have a relatively simple solution: an external partner.”

When using a firm like Cie Digital Labs, companies can be shown the potential for growth and digital solutions that make the greatest impact on their industry. This is ideal because your employees and executives can continue focusing on their roles without diverting internal resources to solving key problems. It’s a clear method for driving forward momentum.

Diversify Your Modes of Innovation

The Harvard Business Review identifies four modes they believe work best for innovating in a corporate setting. They include:

The Specialist Mode: Focusing on product performance and improving digital design in-house.

The Venture Mode: Moving quickly to “identify, select, and assemble necessary resources” in order to develop products and innovation before other companies.

The Community Mode: Using outside expertise from like-minded strangers in order to develop new ideas.

The Network Mode: Utilizing specialist firms and close vendor networks to build new, more effective systems.

There are successes and challenges associated with each one of these modes, but the HBR article states that using multiple modes simultaneously is the most important step in innovating your business. It’s through this experimentation that truly brilliant ideas and products are created.

“Decide and define when and where different modes might be applied during the innovation process,” the article says. “For example, communities can be the source of insight on new product features or ideas at the front-end, while the network mode can be valuable during complex engineering and design projects.”

Focus on Customers

You’ve been told time and time again that focusing on your customers and customer service is the true key to innovating and becoming a leader in your industry. It’s worth repeating once again, particularly if you’re operating in a competitive market. Of course, this is not an easy feat, which is why those who successfully win their customers win the race for innovation.

“Satisfying customers’ service expectations is increasingly challenging as they become more savvy and fickle,” says Kevin Gardner of DigitalistMag. “In fact, customer service has gone beyond ease of use to include proactive user experiences. Automotive companies, for example, are developing solutions that can record critical performance data of an automobile, making it easier to send fault codes to the control center for quick analysis and feedback.”

Gardner names big data as the solution to enhancing the customer experience. He argues that if you can identify the most important needs of your customers, you can design and deliver products that address those problems. Your customers will come to you, seeing you as a highly innovative member of the industry.

You’re not alone in the struggle to create products and services that your target audience will love. Innovation is one of the key obstacles in the digital economy, but it’s also one of the most needed. If you manage to hurdle the specific obstacles facing you and evolve constantly, you’ll easily stand out and thrive amidst the cutthroat competition.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.