Fear of the Unknown: Innovation

“Innovation” is a buzzword among the industry that has little implementation to back it up.

Mackenna Moralez

Companies left and right are speaking up about their innovations and how whatever technology they’re testing is going to be industry leading. However, most people are just experimenting—not implementing.

Fear is a main factor as to why companies lack the follow through when carrying out new technologies. Companies are afraid there a return on investment (ROI) will be low, and some just have a general fear of failure.

“Sometimes failure is a learning experience,” says Kristi Montgomery, vice president of innovation at Kenco.

While the fear of the unknown may be unsettling, sheer market pressure is forcing companies to overcome it. One way in doing so is to take the perspective of the customer. Meaning, how can you improve the product for the consumer’s sake?

You need to act fast, and in order to gain quick wins, you need to start small.

“Everybody likes to talk about the big bang approach and having that lightbulb moment, but in reality, that takes a lot of years and a lot of trials,” Montgomery explains.

Before implementing new technologies, companies first must develop a company culture that is willing to accept change. In Kenco’s 2018 State of Supply Chain Innovation Survey, it states that innovation will move quicker and safer if leaders communicate their plans often and explain why they need to happen.

“People tend to be a lot more on board with change when they know why it’s happening and why it benefits them,” Montgomery states. It is important to be transparent not only with your customers, but with your employees as well.

Even if companies are nervous, it is crucial to move beyond reliable technologies and experiment with emerging tech. The survey suggests that technologies with a clear use case are perfect for pilot experimentation. Technology has to prove its own worth. Montgomery urges people to not experiment with solutions for problems that don’t exist within your company.

Experimenting with new technologies is a necessary evil. While some companies are comfortable doing extended trials, some companies just don’t have the funds to do so. Montgomery suggests that a 90 day trial is standard within the industry, and that you can always come back to a technology and retest it to see how it has improved.

While experimenting with innovation is an exciting time, it is important to not do too much at once—especially if you haven’t established change management yet.

“I often see new leaders come into a company excited with new ideas and what can change for the better. They go after it with all this gusto, and try to do too much at once,” Montgomery says. “People are slow to change. We have to pick one or two things that are the most impactful and give employees a positive look on that change."

While the survey found that only 22 percent of respondents are planning to adopt emerging technologies this year, companies must become more adaptable in order to make implementation an easier process. In order to do that, a business must analyze their data to define what they do best. Once that is accomplished, only then can businesses truly start the decision making process. 

“I can’t stress enough, the data, analytics and visibilitythey’re all so important. It is really critical for companies to have a practice around that data and know what to do with that to make decision making faster and easier,” Montgomery says.

In order for companies to conquer their fear and not see “innovation” as just a buzzword, trials, protocols and executions need to take place. Companies must think about how to do things faster, better and cheaper, because technology will only continue to evolve, and businesses must be able to play into that—regardless if they’re afraid or not. Emerging technologies are here to stay. 

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