Are you innovating on a continuous basis?

Nowadays the market is constantly changing and businesses adapt or die. Preferably you should be a leading player who determines what changes take place and when. So, if you haven’t yet developed a culture of innovation, it’s high time you do. Even a start-up with a proactive philosophy can over time become a market leader. Do you for instance reap the benefits of ideas generated by someone in your organisation?

To succeed in developing a good suggestions is as crucial as realizing when an idea is too expensive and time consuming to be worth while. Especially if it’s questionable if the company will really benefit significantly from it.

In today’s market you need to develop and evolve on a continuous basis. If not, stagnation sets in and you are on the wrong path. What customers want and desire change all the time, competition intensifies, the need to be efficient accelerate, economic fundamentals are altered, re-financing has to be done, new techniques are introduced and your staff turn over. It’s actually easier to list what doesn’t change constantly than what does.

Nothing ever stays the same

Gone are the days when you could just sit back and run your company like a machine. Something is always happening that has an impact on your business. Or as Lewis Carrol put it: “It takes all the running you can manage to stay in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you have to force yourself to run at least twice as fast.” The same goes for risk, to prioritize stability and safety and not taking any risks would be difficult, if not impossible, in today’s integrated world.

Beware of stagnation 

Catalysts for change can come from an abundance of stake holders such as; customers, you, your colleagues, the board, science, new and improved technologies, the media, new theories, world events, new competitors and your own strategic planning. What was new half a ago is already out of date.

If you haven’t yet started to innovate on a continuous basis, even change for the sake of change can actually be a good thing. It will add a momentum that break stagnation and stop mold from growing.

From here to success

Innovation equals change and shows a desire to improve. It can happen in a multitude of ways. Could be new products, new marketing, services, business processes or even changing your organization as a whole.

No matter what, the ability of turning ideas into progress is a true mark of a successful innovation. To succeed in developing a good idea is as crucial as realizing when an idea is too expensive and time consuming to be worth while. Especially if it’s questionable if the company will really benefit significantly from the idea in question.

Look at the pros and cons

Unless you have to, don’t start implementing any idea that could be lucrative. Evaluate it carefully by looking at pros and cons. A SWOT analysis is one way of determining the likelihood of succeeding and will give you a good platform for deciding if you are likely to benefit from going ahead or not.

Determine and evaluate results

Before starting a new project it’s vital to decide what would constitute success and what result would be good enough. How will you measure if it’s a success or not? Can it be achieved quickly or do you have to look at the project long term? To measure and follow up results is also a great way of determining how to succeed with future developments. What made it a success? Why was the result just good enough and not excellent? What factors contributed to an outcome that was merely OK? Why did the idea fail?

Step by step

Innovation can actually be fun and challenging. It will facilitate if you can break it down and take one step at a time. Frequently organizations start a project without finishing it. So do it gradually, take action, make sure you are making progress and finish the project. The worst that can happen is that you fail and learn from it.

How do you develop and innovate? Does your business have an innovative culture? Or maybe a culture of creating value? Do you focus on evaluating ideas and suggestions for change? How do you set goals and determine what would constitute a positive change? How do you follow up and determine what mistakes you made and learn from them? Change happens through evolution or revolution but make no bones about it development and innovation needs to be done on a continuous basis. It’s how you go about it that determines if you succeed. If you resist change, you will stagnate and competitors will gain the upper hand. And then, one way or another, a revolution will take place, for better or for worse.

Photo: o5com – Flickr

76 responses

  1. Innovation is key, as you say Catarina. The world is changing, and doing so ever more quickly. Just look at current events in the Middle East & North Africa – they'd have been unthinkable just a couple of months ago!

    All of this leads to ever more rapid changes in the business world and the key to survival in this is the ability to innovate and adapt. Times of change mean the opportunity for new market leaders to emerge, so companies need to embrace these changes as great opportunities to growth their business into the new markets.

    "Innovate or die" should be the mantra in these times so full of new opportunity.

  2. Glad you agree with me Arvid. As I wrote: "Unless you have to, don’t start implementing any idea that seems lucrative. Evaluate it carefully by looking at pros and cons. A SWOT analysis is one way of determining the likely-hood of success and will give you a good platform for deciding if you are likely to benefit from going ahead or not."

  3. I appeciate your comments regarding an assessment of the "pros and cons" of change. Too often I've found myself working in with companies who were convinced of their need to innovate. "Without doing so," I was told, "we were running the risk of losing our place in the market."

    Upon closer review, the problem(s) had less to do with their long-standing place in the market and more to do with their systemic problem in execution. Particularly in executing so as to maintain a consistent degree of quality.

    We first, had to fix the company by building and integrating the systems that provided consistent delivery. Then, with performance at a higher level, we could review the market, products, delivery systems, etc. to determine where, how, when and the degree to which we needed to change.

    • Good points Paul that I agree with. But make no bones about it, a company lacking a culture of innovation will lose out to their competitors. Badly if they are not careful.

    • Excellent point Paul.

      The situation you are describing is something I have experienced as well. The sustaining of the market share is not the goal nor the limit of innovation. A systematic change if successfully allowed (first) and then implemented, results in unleashed innovation which creates markets and even industries.

  4. Yes – the pros and cons – are we as society and business leaders clear on what the pros and cons really are? It is clear, society and business is embracing technology without questions and makes use of it – but the people that make the technology hold all the ACES. It’s time we question ourselves – is information overload and complexity something we want to accept? – it’s a load of crap and we need to focus on how to make our lives easier and stop the CEO studies fear of complexity increasing we need to reinvent ourselves first to enable us to deal with complexity. Not that little word us.
    Working smarter not harder are my pros and cons and sadly the ‘Undercover boss’ syndrome – it’s really sad to see the ‘responsible actions’ most have taken. Only one 1 to 2% fixed an issue company wide. Good on that leader. Others acted with hubris and haste – not asking the 5W +H.
    I do agree focus, focus and more focus inside and outside of self, business; corporation; government; and above all regulators – most of us are failing to focus in change impacting on society as a result of technology. We are paying for it big time.

    • Seems you agree with me generally speaking Kurt, at least when it comes to technology. However, a business leader that fails to adapt to for instance the swift changes to what their customers/clients want and desire will fail miserably. And technology isn't always the answer to that. Agree with you about the fact that information overload many times confuse companies. We need to simplify and do what works for our company and not try everything new. A business leader who isn't able to evaluate the pros and cons of an idea and conclude if it would really benefits the company frankly shouldn't be a business leader.:)

  5. Catarina:

    Your post fits well with the series I have been writing about Innovation. The process of innovation is so important. Haphazard efforts will not move the organization to anything other than frustration. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


  6. Great post, Catarina. I really liked your Lewis Carrol quote, because it wraps it all up in a nutshell. This might sound funny, but do you think there is a correlation between innovation and reinvention? I think about Madonna's long career and how she continuously reinvented herself for her fans and for the music market. Do you think they are one in the same?

  7. Catarina, It's good to read an article that approaches innovation strategically and you mention the importance of measuring and evaluating. Too often, I've seen large organizations seek change for change itself.

  8. Agree with you about innovation Catarina. To do it successfully I would say you need to have a process in place to make sure any innovation is of benefit to all stakeholders within and outside the company.

    This has always applied at least to the companies I worked for that encouraged innovation and followed through.

    • Definitely Susan. That's where most companies fail. They innovate because they have to. Then again, for a company that's stagnating that may sometimes be necessary, unfortunately. Better to develop a culture of innovation so that's never essential in order to keep up with the competition.

  9. When we talk about 'innovation' we can be discussing many different things, for example:
    1. How we do things (process and relationships)
    2. How we measure success (metrics)
    3. What we do (markets served, products and services offered)
    4. How we communicate (organizational structure/IT)
    5. How we capture value (brands, IP, patents, etc.)
    6. The value creation network of which we are a part
    Innovation can occur in any of these 6 places, and more. The purpose of innovation is not to simply catch up to the competition (if that's the case, you may have already lost the race). The purpose of innovation is ideally to make the competition irrelevant.
    Corporate culture usually expresses innovation as a key attribute of the company's brand. Great leaders and managers understand the need to balance efficient operations with effective innovation practices; they provide focal points for innovation. You can read more about the role of brand and innovation in my and Bill Neal's book "Value Creation: The Power of Brand Equity."

  10. I've been a freelance writer for the past 20 yeas and innovation is critical to the success of any writer in today's environment. We have to keep on top of technological changes and advances, an increase in competition (with the internet, and so many baby boomers retiring, nearly everyone thinks they can be a "writer"), and we have to adapt to our changing interests and priorities. It's been quite the journey!
    My recent post celebrating the sensual pleasures of chocolate

  11. I think Doreen said most of what I had in mind.
    I agree with everything you said above, if you are not evolving and innovating your business it will die. Setting new goals and adapting to the new world will ensure success.
    My recent post I am just over it!!!

  12. Being a company of one, any innovation that is created comes from me alone… LOL. My way of finding a new innovative direction or needed change is from bring creative and stretching my abilities to see where it takes me and then listen to how others respond to it. The best way to measure the overall effectiveness of my changes is in the blog traffic and comments both left and not. :)
    My recent post How To Properly Store Wine: Wine

    • True, Susan. That's one way of looking at it. A multiple of entrepreneurs all over the world have to implement innovations on their own. However the catalysts to do so often comes from someone or something outside of ourselves. New techniques, customers requiring new products and so forth.

  13. Good information. Determining and evaluating results is one of the most important steps because its how you measure success or failure in your efforts. It should be an understood concept that stagnation is the catalyst to never progressing in anything, especially business success.
    My recent post Stretches That Help Your Digestion

  14. Innovation can also mean re-branding yourself if you are an entrepreneur. That's what I did when I re-evaluated my consulting practice a few years ago from a generalist PR agency to a more focused social media writer and blogger. That's where the world was going and I had to learn new skills, but build upon my core competency, which is writing. So innovation comes in many forms and flavors.
    My recent post LinkedIn and Blogging Social Media Tools of Choice for Inc. 500

  15. I've gone through a severe learning curve as I've transitioned from the classroom to becoming a freelance writer and artist. I did learn from experience that stagnation in the classroom was not a good thing, and I hope those same lessons carry me through as I become better at marketing this endeavor I'm tackling. I envy folks who always seem to bee one step ahead of everyone else. I hope I can do the same one day, but first I have to catch-up!
    My recent post Book Review: The Good Cemetery Guide by Consuelo Roland

  16. I really do not enjoy stagnation. It is the same feeling as when their is no breeze and you feel like you can barely breeze. It is almost a drowning feeling. I try to avoid it and keep moving towards success and change in a positive way.
    My recent post Financial Benefits of Being a Vegetarian

  17. I really do not enjoy stagnation. It is the same feeling as when their is no breeze and you feel like you can barely breeze. It is almost a drowning feeling. I try to avoid it and keep moving towards success and change in a positive way.
    My recent post Financial Benefits of Being a Vegetarian

  18. Innovation is great. I feel that the constant evolution and the creative process of running a business is what would make it so exciting and successful. Changing things to keep up with the times is the best way to keep everyone's attention and avoid stagnation.
    My recent post Kitchen Appliances to Help You Eat Healthier

  19. Innovation is great! It should of course be carried out continuously. But the question remains – is any innovation performed on a management level. Do the heads of the company live by the same rule? Are they open for change in the sphere of services/products they deliver as a part of their strategy/business plan ..or are they just walking the same path, because that does not affect them?!

    • Thank you Mirsad. When it comes to the C-level it varies from company to company and you cannot generalise. Some leaders innovate, others don't. And that applies all over the world.

  20. There is an expression that this could stand beside, "When you stop getting better you stop being good." As an INTJ solopreneur I find for me small master mind groups help me get outside of my own head and then on my own, the seeds take hold and then sprout with new ideas.
    My recent post Creating Email Signatures That Work

  21. Innovation isn't necessarily the answer to a successful business. Innovation needs to be strategic and aligned to the future needs and desires of customers. A successful business is one that looks into the future and predicts consumer needs and then uses innovation as a tool to deliver it.

  22. I have a new client who consults about innovation. By working for this client, I am learning about firms need to innovate (or else). Your post drives this point home.

    Thanks for all your insightful commentary on my own posts, Catarina.
    My recent post Build Simple Yet Profitable Website with WordPress

    • Thank you Leora and my pleasure. There is no rest for the wicked, I guess:-) We both have to keep on innovating ourselves and our businesses for the rest of our lives. But since we both enjoy it it's a pleasure, isn't it. Maybe we should start consulting about innovation as well?:-)

  23. Great post! Being an organizer, I feel that change is crucial in our lives not just at work. To move forward we must adjust and adapt to what is going on around us. Thanks for sharing.

  24. I once worked with a technology manager who insisted that his staff devote 10% of their time, the equivalent to one half a day per week, to innovating and experimenting. Thought that was a great idea, something that could be equally appropriate throughout an organization. Provides the opportunity for bottom-up innovation.

  25. Companies and individuals have to be prepared to change and innovate. I like the advice about evaluating pros and cons to be selective about which innovations you move forward with. Also the advice about determining ahead of time what success looks like. Although I do not have a business, I can certainly apply that in my personal endeavors.

  26. Catarina, I try to innovate constantly in my blog and compared to my first posts I can see a great improvement. But there is still much to learn and sometimes the information I’ve received is overwhelming. At that point I need to step back and take a look at which action could help me move forward better. While this doesn’t compare to business innovation, which I totally agree with by the way, it is a necessary process, if not, you do become stagnant – bloggers lose readers, business loses customers.

  27. There is nothing permanent in life than Change. We have to accept it no matter what. If we see over past decade we can understand that how the business world is changing. If someone is not ready to accept the change and for sure they have to lose a lot.

    As you have written, Innovation is the main thing that is needed. In business ,” Innovation” is a vast topic , covering many aspects.
    Now customers are actually interested to see or have something new and different. If someone is not giving something new then they can not stay in market. We can see how Nokia has lost its position that is taken by others.
    The problem here is; the change is very uncertain and very rapid. I think this is what matters to read the change and act accordingly.
    I love the quote by Lewis Carrol put it: “It takes all the running you can manage to stay in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you have to force yourself to run at least twice as fast.”

    The thing that apply in business today is; better to accept the change and innovate, if not, better do something else.

  28. Nobody wants to do business with a company that doesn’t innovate or a person who insists on things remaining the same. The “great recession” was a big motivator for us to reassess what was working and what could help us modify to succeed in bad economic times. I think a lot of people have kept that in mind and keep their eyes and minds open to change.

    • Absolutely, Beth. We may have the opportunity of another great recession soon to further reassess what works in bad economic times. It may even start with sub prime derivatives again:-)

  29. I agree with you that companies need to continuously innovate and change with the times. That’s why some small businesses find it hard to keep up and go out of business e.g. Every company is now expected to have a website and email address. Gone are the days of looking them up in the telephone book or newspapers.

    • Good points, Mina. But don't forget that a lot of people are not innovative. Having a website and email is already yesterday's news. Now you need to master having google hangouts and know what apps to use:-)

  30. The internet has opened up the world to innovation and change. I’m amazed at the amount of resources available not only for ideas but new learning. In the past, businesses used linear thinking, following set formulas that were previously successful. Now it seems you have to adopt a circular way of looking at growth with no beginning or end. You made a great point about evaluation, Catarina. I think it’s important to establish how you’re going to measure the results of ay implemented business plan.

    • Glad you agree with me, Pamela. Internet and all the opportunities it makes available to us are fantastic. Google Hangout for example. Sherryl, Susan, Jeannette, Patricia and I have them on a regular basis to manage the group. Video conference free of charge.

  31. What a great post. We read so much about innovation, but rarely do we hear about consistency. I agree that not only being original and innovated, but we have to make sure we (and our market) are always evolving and changing, and always maintaining that innovation.

  32. I usually try to really stretch my creative abilities and go where they take me in my process of looking for new and innovative direction or needed change. Then I measure the success or effectiveness by the comments on my blog and/or blog traffic. Its always very interesting to see how others respond to it.

  33. I'm not saying that i don't like to change and create new stuff but i also like keep that something which is working.

    I don't know how i put myself, maybe somewhere in the middle.

  34. Sean, you should definitely not change what is really working. Just innovate what is not. And by the way, even something that is working sometimes needs to be innovated. Look at Blackberry. The iphone made their innovative concept old fashioned.

  35. Some activity on my comment :).
    Indeed, sometimes good things get old fashioned and compared with the newcomers they don't look that good anymore. And in fact, innovation is the key to progress.

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