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How Do You Stifle Innovation?

Posted on : 19-01-2011 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business

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Innovation has been a key term on my mind recently.  It sometimes seems to be the big buzz word in businesses for 2010-2011.  In some ways I get excited by this, and hope to see innovative products from many companies in the coming years.  I always love to try new unique products that look like they would add value to my life.  Of course doing so seems to get costly for me, especially when the products do not fully meet my needs.

All the talk has started me thinking about why innovation is key now?  I would think it would have always been a key term and built into the DNA of most companies.  It is innovation that drives growth for many major companies.  I promise I will not make this another post about Apple!  Although in looking at the era before Steve Jobs returned as CEO you could probably do a whole study on innovation.  BTW I want to wish Steve well and we all hope he returns soon.  I do think the current Apple leadership team does understand innovation.  But this was built into the DNA and helped them created some very different products.

As I look around I do see different times where innovation is stifled at an individual level or in business.  You can think about the individual who has a great game changing idea, but they do not take the risk to bring their product to market.  In business we see this all the time.  It can be someone afraid of all the downsides, such as risk, costs, fear of failure, or many other aspects.  Why is this?  I think some people are predisposed to finding all the reasons not to do something.  This is similar to the alternative of someone who is too aggressive with things.  Unfortunately neither side has a crystal ball to determine what will be the best answer.  The best course of action is determine if the innovation meets the needs of your Customers, and when in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask them.  Customers can have amazing insights and they are usually very happy to provide them.

When the concerns are legal, Customer feedback can usually help with that too.  It is also worth the discussion to address some concerns, and see if there are means to mitigate that risk.  At the same time we can look into anything we do and find reasons to say no, but if we did that would we grow?  It is all a balance but in the end, if you can find the path, innovation does not have to be limited to tech companies or newer companies.  Well established firms can easily do it if they create the right culture and have the willingness to accept a failure.  In the end it can be very rewarding for the brand and Customers.

What are some companies that you have found to be innovative?  How do you get past the fears?