Innovation Strategies: What Simple Thing Can A Company Do To Change Their Conversation?
Over the past few decades we have been hearing a lot about Innovation and “entrepreneurship” and yet over the same time as this conversation has heated up so too have the definition of Innovation changed dramatically. For many years it was seen as a small group of individuals who created new products or services and then went on to market them in a manner similar to how small business firms do with product marketing, advertising and sales. We were told that this was Innovation and that was it. The problem was that we were seeing Innovation in many forms and perhaps too many different types of innovation.
In other words innovation was being defined by individual innovators with new products or innovative process of getting new products out into the marketplace. Now however I think we need to take a broader view and define Innovation in a broader way and also look at the impact innovation can have on a company’s overall success and also the definition of Innovation itself. Many believe that the true innovation is when an individual to the point where he or she creates a new product line, new process, new method, a new way of doing things or develops new processes or methods that make existing products more efficient. These innovators are rewarded monetarily when their innovation delivers something of value to consumers.
What about the innovator who innovates for positive social change? Or those who bring about change without necessarily trying to profit from it? They too may be innovators, but maybe we need to add a “third category” to the definition of Innovation. Let’s call this “Innovation for the Public” and make a note that such innovators do not necessarily profit from their innovation. Such innovators may bring about new ways for consumers to access goods and services that otherwise would be available only to the well-funded or to those with access to very powerful technology.
For example consider paul Sloane’s work with Energy Star. Paul Sloane discovered a way to retrofit-and-purpose energy efficient appliances. He then developed a new market by introducing these appliances to those who could not afford them through his company, called rebates. There are many such examples of innovating the public good when it comes to energy efficient appliances and other types of green technologies.
So, if we want to define innovation as “creativity done in the public good”, then we need to recognize that there are many different forms and kinds of innovation. Some forms of innovation are disruptive, changing the way things are done in the market place in order to create new market share, new customers and new markets. Some forms of innovation are simply creative solutions to problems that don’t have been solved yet. And still others come from developing better processes and/or systems for providing goods and services to customers while also providing better support to those who need those goods and services.
As you can see from all the above perspectives on innovation, it appears that it is impossible to answer the question posed in the title. So the simple thing to do is to ask what is important to a company at its core, at the most fundamental level. And once that has been identified, then one can work to ensure that innovation is done in a way that is consistent with this core vision. Only then can you ask the question “What simple thing can a company do to change their conversation?”