Blog Series: Forbes Articles
Steve Niesman | January 27, 2023 | 5 minutes

Innovation is a Mindset Based on Constant Improvement

This article by Steve Niesman was first published on and explores how innovation is a mindset based on constant improvement.

innovation mindset

Steve Niesman is a member of the Forbes Business Council, and his first article was published on on May 4, 2022. Here is a link to the original article.

In the previous installments of this series, I introduced a framework for digital transformation and growing your business called P.R.I.C.E. As a recap, the five focus areas for this framework include people, revenue, innovation, cost and experience.

Now let’s continue the conversation and talk about innovation. If we can agree on the basic idea that all business goals boil down to making money while solving customer problems, no matter what form they take, then we can also agree that innovation is the foundation for achieving that goal.

Innovation, like many things in business, is not something you can look at from a singular viewpoint. It is internal and external, it is technology, it is people, it is process, it is every facet of your business experience. Innovation is a craft that is developed, learned and improved over time throughout your entire organization.

Remove Your Obstacles to Innovation

The first obstacle to an innovation mindset comes from focusing so hard on your product or service that you attempt to force-fit it to each customer rather than serving their actual needs. This approach puts you in a mode of constant reaction with less control over your future because you end up spending significant time trying to avoid losing ground. The better approach is to focus on working toward a predictive mindset so that you can work with customers in an advisory capacity as well as hone your business based on ever more accurate data.

If you truly understand who your customers are—their strengths and weaknesses, their challenges and goals—then you can see where your offerings will help them and where you need to improve to better serve your customers. Getting to that place is the second obstacle to overcome. When anyone from my company asks a customer to identify their biggest issue, the most common answers are data and lack of standardized processes. Their data concerns include data integrity as well as availability, while their processes often need simplification and standardization to facilitate automation.

It turns out that getting your data and processes in order can help you regain the time and resources needed to invest in your people and business in order to make innovation possible. Specifically, automating more recurring tasks can help you focus on solving problems, generating new ideas and working toward a state of continuous improvement since these activities are no longer an afterthought to be squeezed in.

I firmly believe that’s where most people need to start. Removing this major obstacle to innovation can allow your people to have the time and resources to do their work rather than get bogged down in manual processes that are usually far less rewarding.

Your People Combined With Your Technology Are Your Rocket Fuel

Greater profitability should come as a byproduct of focusing on constant improvement and making your business stickier. Technology is simply the tool to help you get there. Things like automation, computer-based AI, intelligent robotic process automation, machine learning and Internet of Things (IoT) all come together to help you focus on delivering more value to your employees and your customers.

That’s why this entire P.R.I.C.E. framework starts with talking about people. They are as central to your success as the technology or any other component. So, it’s important to mention that you’re not necessarily replacing people. You’re giving them the ability to take on tasks that you previously felt you didn’t have the budget or headcount for due to cost pressures or other constraints.

When you save time and money in one area, you can redirect those resources to deliver more value where it is needed. Whether you are automating invoice matching or using these tools to create convenient services for your customers, your people and technology are what drive you forward.

Technology should be used to help identify and inform what is needed throughout your organization. Things like better access and quality of data help move you from a place of simply acquiring and visualizing data to making more accurate predictions. These predictions can be financial forecasts, determining when a machine will fail or when a supplier won’t be able to deliver.

These days, everything we do generates data, whether it’s in our professional lives or as a consumer in our personal lives. But that data isn’t useful if you and your team get bogged down in manual processes. That’s why automation and data are so inextricably linked. There are tools that can help you process and analyze data and then act on it in an efficient manner. And it will only get harder if your processes remain manual because technology is forever evolving. The one consistent truth is that technology has never moved this fast, and it will never move this slow again.

You adapt to this by using automation and training your people. In fact, training serves two needs. One to keep them up to date on the technology tools you have in place, and two, to better equip them to participate in achieving your innovation goals. That’s your rocket fuel.

In short, training is the mechanism for getting employee buy-in for your innovation journey and making sure that they’re along for the ride. A machine can do a repetitive task all day long without errors. But only humans can read the emotions of a customer, engage in strategic thinking based on access to data and come up with creative solutions to solve problems. The companies that innovate and train are the stars of today and the leaders of tomorrow.