It is very rare to work on a bid that doesn’t require you to respond to questions focussed on innovation. When approaching these, we mustn’t lose sight of the importance of thinking about innovation from the perspective of the organisation you are bidding to.
The importance of innovation to evaluators appears to significantly outweigh that of continuous improvement. There are a number of obvious reasons for that. In today’s markets, innovation is an area where buyers can see notable differences between bidders (unlike, for example, areas such as continuous improvement, service delivery and client care).
Also, as many clients see their own innovation vision and strategy as vital, the ability to identify those partners who will make a positive impact to that journey is a priority for them.
They are also looking to spot what is termed ‘disruptive innovation’ – in particular, thoughts on potential new business models and how they could lead to transformations in supply chains or create new markets.
Innovation is a high-profile area in many organisations now, which means we don’t find it too difficult to articulate a view point on innovation – for example, where advancements in technology have been exploited and new concepts are being considered. When covering innovation, most of us can draw upon expertise from internal innovation departments and specialists within our own organisations.
Of course, innovation strategies and roadmaps are derived from imaginative thinking that is linked to making a positive customer impact. As bid managers, we must coach and challenge those closest to the client, and the innovation specialists who are supporting the bid, to present innovation from the perspective of the people we are bidding to.
INNOVATION MUST BE OF VALUE
Let’s not get too bogged down in defining innovation. True innovation is rare, but clients are often open minded and not overly prescriptive. I suspect there are very few of us that have been presented with a specific description to adhere to when concentrating on innovation that demands we only present what is unique, ground-breaking or pioneering.
Innovation goes beyond a step change in method with an element of originality. It must be useful and give rise to a positive outcome that is viewed as noteworthy. This is why we need to present responses covering innovation in a way that links the idea or concept to the achievement of what is important to the client. Like beauty, innovation is actually in the eye of the beholder. What one set of evaluators sees as relevant and making a difference may not be viewed in the same way by evaluators in a different organisation. There can be many reasons for that, so it is important that our pre-bid planning uncovers: what innovation looks like for the client; where they are in relation to innovation; how they see it potentially making a difference; and what is of most interest to them. Being in touch with where competitors are focussing their efforts should also influence the approach to developing our response.
Such knowledge is vital in demonstrating how we can help the client in a way they have not heard of or thought of yet, on an area of genuine interest. The key is being able to confidently translate a vision and concepts into actual benefits and impact.
DEMONSTRATING A COLLABORATIVE APPROACH TO INNOVATION
We should also take the opportunity to show how the leadership and culture of the organisation is fostering a long term commitment to innovation. The belief that great ideas are produced through an individual’s flash of genius is a myth. The process of anything innovative must be collaborative.
Originality arises from the interplay of ideas and positive abrasion that occurs during interactions of people confident to offer their own points of view. We should not underestimate the strength in being able to clearly convey to evaluators our vision, what has influenced it and how a passion for thinking differently through collaboration goes beyond our organisation – and in particular extends to the client.
This article was written by Peter McPartland.
Peter is recognised for his strengths in bid team leadership, innovation and performance improvement. One of the first law firm employees to achieve the APMP Certified Professional qualification, Peter is also a winner of an APMP UK national award for Innovation.