Innovation is nothing if not successful. If you’ve
read the innovation literature, I know you’ve heard about letting your
people be creative and maintaining a tolerance for mistakes. You’ve
seen the lists that include things like: play, curiosity, intuition,
collaboration, and failure.

I’ll probably tick a lot of innovation pundits off when I say this:
business leaders work hard to minimize failure and innovation is no
exception. Qualities like play and curiosity are a wonderful part of
everyday life, but they are not nearly enough to drive results in
commerce. Here’s my bottom line: if you’re not innovating to win in the
marketplace, you’re not doing business innovation.

Innovation is the development of new products or services that succeed
in the market. Everything else is something else: an experiment, a
mistake, a failure, a missed opportunity, or a foray in creativity.
Call it what you will. It’s not business innovation.

Business innovation is welded to customer value. They are inseparable.
You must – no exceptions – generate value for your clients. If you do
not, you have failed. Your efforts will not last.

Likewise business innovation is indivisible from revenue growth. It
must result in increased profits one way or another – in the near term
or the long term – or it’s a waste of time. That’s why it’s called

Sometimes business innovation is about introducing new ways of working.
Often these days it means dealing successfully with disruption. 
Of particular interest is coping with our down economy, responding to a
revolutionary product that is sweeping through the marketplace and
laying waste to existing industries, and the rapid rise of new
competitors and business models.

Seven Principles for
Getting Innovation Right

Here are seven fundamental principles that I rely on in my work helping
business leaders meet the market with traction and successful
execution. By following these principles, you can stack the deck in
favor of success.

1. Bring in experts
who have forged their mettle in battle.

Getting the right people into play is always the way to go. Bring in
folks who know the territory, who can apply their hard earned
experience to your circumstances.

2. Listen to the
market – do your competitive intelligence.

Due diligence means taking the time to identify the trends at play. You
want to consult with other players, partners, people on the front lines
and thought leaders. Cut the right balance between the past (data and
experience) and the future (trends and patterns). Gather customer
intelligence and analyze business trends. Put the puzzle together
before you figure out how you fit in.

3. Don’t abandon
business basics.

Business is still business. Don’t confuse new applications and models
with changing the fundamentals. You still need to know your audience,
build the relationships that provide traction, generate value people
want, and provide the best products and service in ways that build your
gravity and brand. Revenues must exceed expenses – the sooner the
better; profits are all important. Keep to the fundamentals.

4. Study and
leverage emerging trends.

Don’t live with your head in the sand. Make a point of monitoring the
frontiers in your field. Study, study, study. Learn what others have
done, why they succeed and fail. Track down thought leaders and
futurists. Scope your forays into the future properly. Don’t go too far
out, but don’t stay too close to where you are. Balance risk with

5. Reframe your
challenges and ask what can be done to leverage them for your
customers’ benefit.

Don’t get too caught up in trying to keep things from falling apart or
cutting costs. They are ultimately losing propositions. Reframe your
challenges so you see the variables at play. Then ask, how can these be
used to win?  Never lose sight of your quest to generate value –
it’s the primary motive force.

6. Build bridges to
the future.

Internal stress can slow you down. Business processes that are slow to
evolve are killers. So are internal mindsets that give all the reasons
why new things cannot be done. Invest first in your own mind, then in
your people. Develop the skill of working toward the future. Evolve
your business processes to take advantage of new technologies.

7. Prepare for
success so you’re drawing it to you, not running after it.

Too many business leaders are chasing carrots or running from sticks.
Be a center of gravity. Carve out the space that is yours and pull
others toward you. When you represent the future, when you are leaning
headlong into new ways of generating value in the market, you will find
resources coming your way. Everyone wants to be part of success.
Associate yourself with the way forward.

Business innovation is a nonstop enterprise, especially these days.
Technology continues to revolutionize our environment. The economy is
an ongoing challenge. New business models are popping up like daisies
on a warm spring day. Lean into it and push for success. But, do it
smartly. Innovation for innovation’s sake is not much to rely on.
Business innovation that succeeds in the market is what it’s all about.