Innovation or Evolution in your Organization?

How important is innovation versus evolution? Do non-profit organizations today innovate or evolve or is it a combination of the two? Successful organizations recognize that innovation and evolution play a very similar role and define it as “deliberate evolution”. 

Adam Legge, President and CEO of the Calgary Chamber, introduced me to the notion of deliberate evolution as it applies to his organization when he said, “… in my view, innovation is evolution. They are in many ways the same thing. Evolution is adaptation and change based on our needs, environment and other forces. Innovation is perhaps a more deliberate evolution as innovation is simply the taking of something already done or in existence and making it better.” 

As we look at our own organizations, can we deliberately evolve them to take something already done or in existence and make it better rather than falling into the trap of always creating something new in the name of innovation? Consider the following:

Products – In order to truly be focused on our customer, the member, we should be focused on the best of our products and eliminate anything that does not contribute to member value. By deliberately evolving a core set of products, are we creating value and meeting the changing needs of our members

Product Utilization – Do we know how many members use our products? If only 1% of the membership is using a certain product and it provides a high level of satisfaction but requires 20% of staff time to maintain it, can those resources be dedicated somewhere else?

Product Decay – If your organization is creating a new product to get out of a financial rut, member decline or other issue, it is not only the wrong reason but also siphons away resources from good products. Organizations that deliberately evolve do it from an offensive posture and not a defensive one. Anything that distracts from the core business and could cause decay should be seriously evaluated through a product development process

Product Development – In the book by Dr. Robin Karol and Beebe Nelson, New Product Development for Dummies, there is a staggering statistic that showed in 2006, 150,000 new products were brought to market with fewer than 5% becoming a hit and only 15% had a life span of more than five years. Creating a process to vet new products will not only increase the odds of success but also ensures that precious resources are focused appropriately

Product Philosophy – One of Google’s philosophies is that “it’s best to do one thing really, really well.”  Google also goes on to say, “through continued iteration on difficult problems, we’ve been able to solve complex issues and provide continuous improvements…” Your organization’s mission, its reason for existence, is the “thing” that it should do really, really well. Keeping the number of products narrow and focused on the mission of the organization allows for continuous improvement. What is your product philosophy?

Deliberate evolution helps organizations stay true to their core without a ballooning set of products but ones that are true to its mission. Satisfaction with a non-profit organization’s products is the key to long-term loyalty and revenue growth. Research conducted by Telefaction Data Research showed that “customers who rate you 5 on a scale from 1 to 5 are six times more likely to buy from you again, compared to ‘only’ giving you a score of 4.8.” Can we afford to be less than a 5 to our members? How is your organization going to deliberately evolve today?