Innovation and creativity the lifeblood of business

The flow and growth of creativity and innovation are the driving forces behind the success of any business. Modern day challenges such as globalisation, increasing competition and advances in technology mean organisations must be continually adapting in order to succeed.

True innovation, according to Stuart Behncken, Head of Product Innovation at Consumer Healthcare, sanofi – aventis, is something that is disruptive and will cause a change in the way people operate. It is real enough to cause an effect in the market place, he says.

Behncken is a speaker at the marcus evans Innovate 2011: Profitable Product Development Conference taking place in Sydney on 22- 23 February.

However, impediments have always and will always exist when it comes to new product development, he says.

“Not having an ability to predict the future is always an issue and as a result you have to accept some risk and know that you will make mistakes when it comes to a new product. However, you won’t know what those mistakes are until you’ve actually entered the market.

“There is an old adage that applies to innovation: the best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas. You have to be able to sacrifice a certain amount of waste at work and most businesses struggle with that. They tend to want to check and trial as many ideas as possible for new products using resources sparingly and carefully. It used to be very important to spend a lot of money on promotion at the product launch stage but now companies are experimenting online a bit more with viral advertising, which is a cost effective method of product promotion.  Businesses can be a bit more realistic now and trial a number of ideas at once.”

The effect of the financial crisis on the area of research & development and innovation has varied according to the specific industry, Behncken explains. “Certainly in the financial services industry, the appetite for experimenting with new products is very, very low. I don’t think there has been a particularly global impact today – the multi-industry impact has been largely diffused. The industries that were directly impacted are still very careful about getting into the experimental areas they were before.”

With more attention being paid to cost controls these days, there is a fear that capping budgets may curtail innovation. However, this doesn’t exactly ring through, according to Behncken.

“I don’t think it necessarily hinders innovation per se but it does increase the risk of finding out whether the innovations are going to work or not. Capturing an idea and developing it in its early stage doesn’t cost much but capping the budget means you can only follow through on a few of those ideas to see if it will work or not.

“Test marketing can be very expensive and that’s where capping your budget will increase your risk. From that point of view maybe you can take more chances if you are going to spend less on the budget in the development area.”

The marcus evans Innovate 2011: Profitable Product Development Conference will take place in Sydney on 22- 23 February.