Posted by: Bill von Achen | June 3, 2011

How Has Innovation Shaped Your Business?

Just this week, we learned that research scientists are developing advanced techniques that use genetic information to match drugs to specific cancers in individuals, signaling a profound shift in how cancer drugs are developed and patients are potentially treated.  At least two drugs based on these new targeting mechanisms have shown significantly positive results in clinical trials, and are being fast-tracked by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Innovations like these grab headlines and our attention.  But innovation happens in business almost every day.  In this context, innovation certainly includes technologies that allow us to deliver existing products and services faster, better and cheaper, as well as technologies that lead to new product and service offerings. It also includes taking innovative approaches in dealing with seemingly more mundane practices in our companies, including routine processes and procedures.

Here are just a few examples of the kind of quiet innovation that has taken place in some of the small and mid-sized companies I work with:

—A manufacturer of consumer and industrial textiles discovers that fabrics embedded with certain minerals can provide a therapeutic effect to humans and animals.  The discovery leads to a the development of a thriving new product line.

—An upstart construction materials distributor offers free delivery to give the new company a competitive edge.  The offering starts a trend that’s eventually copied by the entire industry, but not before the upstart gains major market share.

—A real-estate valuation firm is forced to cut its pricing to keep a major customer.  To cope with the potential loss of margin, the company reengineers its product and processes to dramatically lower its costs, allowing it to keep the business and actually increase profitability.

—A healthcare consulting firm develops a unique value proposition that it then prints on the back of every employee’s business cards.  The message serves as a constant reminder to both customers and employees about what makes the company different from its competitors.

—A financial services firm takes networking to a new level by establishing its own monthly luncheon program for business professionals in its referral network.  The program helps everyone to expand and deepen their connections, and the host firm increases its reputation and visibility.

I’d like to hear your thoughts and insights about how innovation has shaped your own business, and what you do (or can do) to foster innovation in your company.  Toward that end, I invite you to think about the following questions:

  • What new products or services have you introduced to your customers in the past year? 
  • What was the source of the ideas behind these new products/services, and what process did you follow to bring them to market?
  • What has been the impact of these new products/services on your company (i.e., profitability, costs, market share, customer retention, employee growth, etc.)?
  • What recent policy or procedure changes have you made that have had a positive impact on your business?
  • What do you currently do to foster innovation in your company?
  • What else could you do to make your company and your employees more innovative?

Share your thoughts and insights about innovation here.  Thanks! 


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