There is no question that innovation is a catalyst for change, and one of the most powerful ways to drive business growth in today’s ultra competitive and ever changing environment. In the ‘old’ world:

  • We were able to create three-, five-, even ten-year plans and be able to predict with a level of certainty the areas of potential change; now the world is moving much quicker with new competitors, products and services changing market dynamics and creating new industries.
  • Intelligent thinking, high quality products, services, and the breadth of range that is available now quite simply didn't exist; now everything is everywhere and we want it better, quicker, and cheaper than ever before.
  • Resources that were once limitless are now increasingly scarce whether it be cash, talent, or clients; now it’s knowledge and insight that is in demand.

On top of this, we are all challenged on a daily basis to ideate, to innovate, to disrupt, to change.

Increased technology and knowledge, economic instability on a global scale, and changing social dynamics are driving a collective demand for innovation on a continuous basis. Brands and businesses quite simply have no choice. It is a case of recreate, rejuvenate, and reinvent or face the inevitable — lose customers and market share, witness increasing levels of staff disengagement, struggle to attract or retain talent, and be part of the self propagating disaster that ensues as sales and profits slump.

Steve Blank, a Silicon Valley serial-entrepreneur recognised for developing the Customer Development methodology which launched the Lean Start-up movement says, “All too often, a corporate innovation initiative starts and ends with a board meeting mandate to the CEO followed by a series of memos to the staff, with lots of posters, and one-day workshops. This typically creates ‘innovation theatre’, but very little innovation.”

Consumers are in control more than ever before. They are demanding innovation and invention, and solutions to problems — and they want them now. They are signalling their needs with their feet and their fingertips. They want one hour on-line delivery, not within 72 hours; they want to be able to book that taxi or that table in the ‘must go to’ restaurant for tonight and they want it now; they will invest in that unique customised piece because it is “exactly what I want, thank you very much”; and please, whatever you do, look after me as if you truly care.

 

Consumers want improvements, modifications, and more functionality on things that to all intents and purposes are already working. They want speed to market, engagement from the person at the helm and unique, interesting never-before-seen go to market campaigns.

We have to be ahead of the curve, not following, to replace confusion with clarity, to lead the market, and to create the future.

Ideas have to become actions quickly, effectively and profitably. Decisions must be made. We need to:

  • Listen and respond to consumer demand
  • Understand the constant need to innovate and do it with speed and impact
  • Create environments within our businesses that allow ideation and innovation
  • Allow the incubation of ideas, the freedom to test, to try, and to fail

Almost 25 years ago, Jack Welch as CEO of GE Capital was convinced that the speed of globalisation and technological innovation in the 21st century would require companies to work very differently. He discussed the need for shorter decision cycles, increased employee engagement, and a need for stronger collaboration and a spirit of shared thinking.

In 2007, in response to growing music piracy, Radiohead self-launched its album In Rainbows, allowing its fan base to pay as much or as little as it wanted and to download directly from the band’s website. The lead singer from U2, Bono, said Radiohead has ‘been courageous and imaginative trying to figure out some new relationship with their audience’.

Innovation is multi dimensional. The inventors, the innovators, the game changers, and the entrepreneurs are everywhere. They are inside and outside our organisations creating new ideas, new businesses, and new products.

Evolution is essential for survival. Embrace innovation and remain relevant. Or choose the opposite: sit comfortably in status quo and say goodbye.