Why innovation is not a choice – it is a necessity

From the studio of Dagens Næringsliv

On June 15th, EGGS' CEO, Ulla Sommerfelt, and six other Norwegian business leaders shared their recommendations on innovation from the studio of Dagens Næringsliv, the leading Norwegian newspaper specialising in business news. What does it take to succeed? How do you ensure that you create commercially viable solutions? According to Ulla, there are three main things to consider for successful innovation: openness, acceptance of uncertainty, and collaboration.

The article is based on the DN studio session 'Fremtidens Virksamhet' (the future business). You can watch the complete recording here.

A matter of survival

Innovation is not only important; it is essential. Being at the forefront and ensuring that your business remains relevant is a matter of survival. We need to innovate continuously to be relevant today and in the future. Intelligent organisations are wise enough to ask themselves, 'What will we live from ten years from now?' because they know that they won’t be able to do what they are doing today.

"Humans have always innovated. But the conditions evolve over time – today the speed and complexity in society and with technology are much higher. Also, the need for improvements is more pressing than ever – we have a planet to save.”
Ulla Sommerfelt, CEO, EGGS Design

The three pillars of innovation

So, what do we need to succeed with innovation in a complex and ever-changing context like today? Essentially, it is about business culture. Innovative ideas and an innovative spirit can only thrive if we ensure a suitable breeding ground in the organisation. Simply put, there are three fundamental pillars that we can build on:

1. Open-mindedness. This might sound obvious, but it is not to all. You cannot simply copy what has already worked for others in the current market. You must know the future market, the users, and the potential users. Let yourself be inspired by new, young people and open up to new perspectives and ideas. New perspectives don’t only improve your current business; they can also open up for new business models to expand your market beyond what you currently do.

2. Acceptance of uncertainty. It is not easy, but learning to live with the tensions of constant uncertainty is vital. You must dare to do without knowing and admit that you don’t have the answers to everything. But even without these answers, you dare to test, experiment and prototype to find them.

3. Collaboration. Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. Or did he? The lightbulb is the result of the work of a larger team, not only that of Mr Edison. There is valuable teaching, namely that innovation is a team sport. The single genius rarely reaches very far, especially not in today's complex world. We need different competencies, perspectives, and capacities to succeed. And this goes beyond the company boundaries - in the future, external partnerships will be essential for your success.

The greatest risk is to remain the same

Change and development alone are not enough. Your improvements in your company need to be speedy and accurate at the same time. It is hardly news that we live in a VUCA world – volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. All this makes innovation challenging and risky. But, make no mistake – remaining the same is not only far more complicated – it will be your inevitable death. Both for private businesses, public institutions, and, most essential of all - humanity and the planet.

We urgently need to innovate to create regenerative, circular, profitable business models. For ourselves, our organisations and future generations. Let us solve it together!

(Image credits: Hanne Kristine Fjellheim, Sopra Steria)

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Ulla Sommerfelt

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Ulla Sommerfelt
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