I am a huge advocate of innovation. Some of the most successful brands the world has witnessed are the result of innovation. Think Apple iPod or Toyota Prius or eBay or Amazon.com or even my hometown grocery chain, Wegmans. They have all experienced uncommon success based on innovation.
First, let’s define innovation. Innovation is the application of novelty to create value.
What leads to innovation? Here is my short list (based upon several experts’ extensive research in this area):
- A penchant for experimentation and action over analysis
o Wegmans has succeeded over the years by constantly testing new concepts in a few stores and then, if they are successful, integrating them throughout their other stores.
o Organizations need to play to win rather than play not to fail.
- The realization that in many industries, approximately 70% of innovations are developed by users, not the firm bringing the product to market (from research done by Professor Eric von Hippel at MIT)
o Harley-Davidson executives go on HOG Rallies with their customers taking notes and asking questions about accessories, bike modifications and other user-added features. They then debrief and act on what they discovered upon returning to their headquarters.
- The importance of connectivity. An enterprise has a much higher success rate if it is interconnected with the widest variety of potential idea sources, suppliers, business partners, customers, universities, governmental agencies, etc.
o In their book, Co-Opetition, Adam M. Brandenburger and Barry J. Nalebuff convincingly make the point that enterprises that view other organizations and entities as potential partners rather than potential competitors are more successful in the marketplace.
- Build on your strengths, don’t waste your efforts on hiding or compensating for your weaknesses. Identify your assets and amplify them.
o Numerous municipalities have ignored their inclement weather (either during the winter or the summer) and built on their unique strengths to attract businesses, residents and tourists
- Envision the positive outcome that you seek.
o World class athletes make use of creative visualization. In their minds, they relentlessly visualize their ultimate success.
- Be optimistic and constantly work until your optimism is justified.
o Henry Ford’s first two automobile companies failed.
o In baseball, a batter doesn’t improve by waiting for the perfect pitch. He improves by hitting -- again and again and again.
Innovation is fun. It is energizing. It makes you want to work harder. It can make the world a better place in which to live. And it can lead to exceptional business results and brand success. I wish you an innovative future.