A renewed focus on innovation is happening right now among the entrepreneurial, corporate and academic communities in Houston. In addition to the formation of Houston Exponential, the affiliated HX Venture Fund, and Station Houston, plans are in the works to create a 9.4-acre innovation district in Midtown as part of the city’s 2017 strategic plan to build an innovation ecosystem.
The innovation district will support top resources like incubators, accelerators, shared spaces, and prototyping facilities within energy, industrial, healthcare, and logistics. Best of all, it will help launch Houston to the forefront of the world’s data science and digital technology leaders in those industries.
Innovation and energy
It’s worth noting that of the industries listed two sentences ago, innovation is perhaps the most challenging for energy-based companies. In a word, the challenge these businesses are facing is unpredictability. They’re trying to keep up with giants like Exxon and NRG Energy, transformative technology and ever-changing market competition. A once-predictable industry is now facing simultaneous, swift changes across the board.
Growing companies often have a hard time learning that failure is not a sign of incompetence. To innovate, companies have to learn to think of failure and mistakes as necessary learning opportunities — valuable avenues to open-minded, critical, and innovative thinking. Companies that focus more on correcting mistakes than learning from them are letting their innovation processes go stale.
New ideas are the lifeblood of business. Here are a few steps companies and organizations can take to keep their innovation processes fresh:
1. Observe customers to uncover new problems and opportunities.
Building an understanding of customers’ pain points helps organizations identify ways to provide solutions. The best innovators are those who ignore the standards and look at what the end user truly needs.
2. Prototype and beta test new solutions.
Try out new ideas on a small group of employees or loyal customers. Then, when failures arise, do some digging to understand why before going back to the drawing board for revisions. This will help identify biases and uncover insights, leading to a more effective offering.
3. Hire an external group.
Bringing in a third party is a great way to challenge the institutional thinking of a team or company while saving internal resources. Hang on every word they say, too, because this is the best bet for getting honest feedback. This constructive criticism will help shape the company’s future. Reach out to us at Rocksauce Studios for some insight.
Houston’s forthcoming innovation district shows not only how dedicated the city is to empowering innovators but also how important new paths to innovation are for various industries. Efforts can become more difficult as businesses grow, but proactive steps can help companies evaluate their approaches to innovation. This district is certainly a big step in that direction.