In order to survive and thrive in business today, a company must have innovators. That innovative leadership can come from the C-Suite or from other employees, but the management must recognize and act on it. An organism dies if it doesn’t grow, and growth is a function of innovation.
What is Innovation?
Innovation in business can come on two different forefronts. Then there are those who have succeeded by conceptualizing and implementing something totally new and different, and there are others who become successful by re-tooling an old-school approach, building on something that already exists.
For example, Mark Zuckerberg – the 26-year-old self-made billionaire co-founder of Facebook didn’t invent social networking. In fact, sites like MySpace and LinkedIn were around for a long time before Facebook. Originally what Zuckerberg did was focus his energy on a college student target market – – intuitively knowing how they wanted to communicate. Unlike MySpace, which is basically a personal Web page linked to other users, Facebook created an easy-to-build profile that enabled almost instant interaction, focusing on relationships – as opposed to simply cosmetics.
The innovation Process
Study a market within an industry – look for weaknesses and opportunities
First, start with an industry in which you are an expert. It is far easier to create something meaningful from your knowledge-base, as opposed to trying to create solutions before you understand what the actual needs are. Find a market within an industry and identify weaknesses and opportunities.
Profile all of the competitors
Know everything there is to know about the current solutions. Review the competitors. What is the size of their market? What is their margin? What is their marketing strategy?
What type of product or service can you create that is clearly different and superior?
First, find a niche in a market that excites you – find something that charges you and from which you derive pleasure. But don’t get caught up on inventing. Keep in mind that your innovation doesn’t have to cure a major disease. Innovation could be something totally new, but there are a lot more opportunities to improve an existing product or service. Furthermore, tweaking an existing product or service costs far less then starting anew and takes less time to go to market.
“Innovation could be something totally new, but there are a lot more opportunities to improve an existing product or service.”
Quick marketing check
Once you conceive an idea, make sure that whatever name you adopt can be obtained in a URL. Don’t settle for a name because some other marketer has the name you want and you have to add a lot of additional words to be able to register it. Change your name so you can own the URL exclusively.
Intellectual Property Protection
Make sure that you consult an attorney that specializes in intellectual property matters, which includes copyright, trademark, and patent. Thus, you are protected against encroachment and won’t encounter unhappy surprises later.
My Innovation Journey
My company is a media, marketing, and communications organization. Fifteen years ago, while negotiating the terms of a new agreement with a major client, the executive in charge of stewarding the deal told me that my company was simply a “commodity.” And while we had done a very good job, there were other companies that could do a similarly good job and at a lower cost. My interpretation of what this marketing person was telling me was that while my company was effective – we didn’t have anything that was totally unique – and that, in essence, our services could be bought off a shelf.
We then shifted our organization to refocus our strategy on creating a service organization that was perceived as a brand, as opposed to a commodity – something generally not easy to do in a service industry. But we did it because we were committed to it. We created our own products. We did this by developing our own unique and proprietary media assets and technology solutions. We created various new subsidiaries, including our unwired national cable network platform – the American Target Network™.
American Target Network™ is a perfect example of innovation, leadership, and branding. With media rates increasingly outpacing the value based upon the cost of delivering viewers, we determined that there was a need for a more efficient way to buy media. We then aggregated the majority of the local cable systems into our own proprietary network platform. We created a model where we were able to deliver the same national cable networks to our advertisers at a fraction of the cost of traditional network delivery.
By developing a new way to deliver the same content, we separated ourselves from our competitors and were able to start assembling the building blocks to creating a brand.
Don’t let stagnation kill your enterprise. Don’t be the one that merely does what you or others have done for decades – or even for centuries. Innovate with vigor and vision and you will see success.