Survival of the Innovatists

Awhile ago I ran across the following video about Innovation (posted March, 2007).  I found it quite entertaining yet poignant, so I thought I’d share.  The video underscores the importance of focused creativity that drives progress, improves customer experiences, and effectively and responsibly inspires organizational change.

This week, I read an article on The New Yorker website about the importance of innovation in the survival of small businesses – How David Beat Goliath:  When underdogs break the rules.

“When underdogs choose not to play by Goliath’s rules, they win, . . . , “even when everything we think we know about power says they shouldn’t.”

The take away for me – Winners in business, and in life, color outside of the lines.  They also compete in areas of strength rather than battling on a front that requires skill in areas of obvious weakness.  Sometimes the approaches are even counter-intuitive.

Late last year I read What Customers Want:  Using Outcome-Driven Innovation to Create Breakthrough Products and Services.  In this book  Anthony W. Ulwick proposes the following:

1.  Innovation is a systematic, defined, and intentional process:  “. . . innovation is indeed a science – a systematic process for creating products or services that deliver new value to customers – not an art form that is forever destined to produce random and unpredictable results.”

A company that defines a process for research and development of new products and services is predisposed to achieve a higher success rate.

2.  The customer-driven innovation of the past 20 years has rendered a “50 to 90 percent” failure rate for new product / service initiatives – Ulwick concludes, “being customer driven is just not good enough.”  Companies need to do more than respond directly to customer requests, they need to delve deeper into the outcomes customers are trying to achieve – the underlying purpose for the request.  Customers are not experts in product development  and technology, they simply want a product to help them achieve their goals – faster, easier, and more effectively.

Ulrick goes on to define “Eight Steps to Outcome-Driven Innovation” which help companies ask customers for the right types of inputs, define the type of innovation required, analyze underserved and overserved markets, identify market segments, focus value creation effort, etc.

I am very fortunate to work for Infusionsoft, a marketing automation software company that constantly innovates and strategizes to better serve their customer base.  I was recently involved in a cross-departmental team meeting in which we analyzed new customer goals and strategized changes to the product that will help new customers more quickly and easily achieve them.   Innovation is a key component to surviving the current economic times – a willingness to continually evaluate and pursue changes that will ensure customer loyalty, longevity, and company growth.

So, small business owners, I guess I am encouraging you to start an Innovolution (Innovative Revolution) – become an Innovatist who survives by breaking traditional rules for success, by courageously applying your strengths to overcome today’s challenges, and by systematically innovating new products and services based on the outcomes your customers want to achieve.

Share your thoughts.   I’d like to hear your input or stories about innovative approaches, products, or services you’ve experienced.  How is your small business “beating Goliath?”

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