Business innovation is about creating new methods of
operation, products, and services that win in the marketplace.
Innovation is a lot like life itself. Circumstances are always
changing. We have to shift and correct our strategy to adjust to new
developments. When we are successful the effort we put in results in
improving our situation.
My definition of innovation is adaptation to new
circumstances resulting in increased value that far exceeds the
resources required to achieve it.
When conditions are fairly stable we have the time to be considered,
take in the nuances and details, reflect before we act. But, when the
environment is chaotic, unpredictable, threatening, and rapidly
shifting, all that changes. The world becomes Darwinian, weeding out
the unlucky and the slow. That is a pretty good description of today’s
For most leaders you can say, If
you’re not innovating, you’re headed toward failure. The only
question is, how fast? For those who are not yet facing a life and
death situation, there are the questions of market prominence,
leadership, and leaving value (money) on the table.
Successful innovation is not easy. You can create new ways of working,
develop new products and services, introduce them into the market, and
When I first started doing strategy work in the mid-90s leaders were
asking me to help with implementing a new idea, product, or service.
They would come to me saying, “We have a better way of doing business
and we need help getting buy-in, uptake, support so that every
stakeholder, everyone in the organization can support this change with
In 2008 all of that changed. The economy tanked. People were in shock.
Investment portfolios shrank dramatically. The calls I got were about
dealing successfully with disruption. Nobody was sure about exactly
what to do, but they knew it was going to have to be different from
what they did. They didn’t need to innovate. They needed to succeed.
Leaders are still facing formidable and intimidating challenges: our
tough economy, revolutionary products sweeping through the marketplace,
the meteoric rise of new competitors, rapid introduction of new
business models, boards and investors in shock, and customers in
financial straits. I don’t see that changing in the next couple
of years. My message: get serious about innovation.
But, here’s the kicker: today’s conditions are perfect for leaders who
are looking for opportunity because they will be able to take advantage
of the unique challenges in the marketplace and use them to create new
What is your mindset? To successfully innovate you must see what others
do not. Innovation is the exception to the rule; it is the
breakthrough. You must be able to look limitations directly in
the eye and wring from these very circumstances the results that will
catapult you forward. That is successful adaptation.