Pause for just a moment and ask yourself this question: “what are my all-time favorite brands?”
Regardless of what your answer may be, and no matter the nature of the product or service you choose as a favorite, you can be certain of at least one commonality shared by all the companies selected: their success is—at least in part—based upon their innovation.
Now, I’m not saying that in order for a company to succeed they need to—as the saying goes—‘reinvent the wheel’, but I can say based upon firsthand experience that a company’s continued success is, at least in part, based upon its ability to remain innovative in today’s fiercely competitive market.
As CEO of Sackett National Holdings, I am fortunate enough to work with many smart, innovative professionals who understand that in order for our company to remain successful we must continue to break new ground. In actuality, for a business such as ours with two decades of success already behind us, it’s somewhat of a balancing act: build upon the foundations that have brought us our success, but be sure not to rest upon our laurels, and just assume that success will continue unabated.
And that’s where innovation and new ideas come into play.
In today’s Information Age, technology continues to evolve at an unprecedented pace, and in doing so, continuously changes the way we live and work. Think about your own daily routine today compared to what it was as recently as ten years ago. For example, consider the changing role that a single device—such as your smart phone—now plays in your daily life: from the way you communicate (via email, texting) to the way you conduct business (via an ever-growing world of apps) and even the way you record your life experiences (via pictures and videos); the innovation of the smart phone has, indeed, transformed the daily lives of millions.
But if a company is determined to remain competitive through innovation—even in the era of high tech–just what are the key qualities required to remain a trailblazer in today’s fiercely competitive business world?
Of course, innovation takes many forms, but I believe these are a few of the core characteristics of companies whose hallmark is innovation:
- Study Your Competitors: It might, at first glance, seem antithetical that in order to remain innovative a company spends time studying its competition; however, there is much to be learned from other companies competing in your business sector. And while no company should ever plagiarize ideas from another one, smart businesses understand that learning from the successes—and especially the failures—of competitors can prove most useful in avoiding similar pitfalls, while en route to your own innovative solutions. After all, in the wake of the disastrous ‘New Coke’ introduced many years back, fierce rival Pepsi never attempted a similar reinvention of its classic product, did they?
- Learn The Art of Anticipation: While this is a challenging task for any business, learning to anticipate what your clients may need before they explicitly express a desire for a product/service is a key element in remaining innovative. Again, one need only look at the smart phone: as recently as 10 years ago, how many people would have considered their cell phone to be a core tool in communicating textually, or a place to conduct business? Steve Jobs’ capacity for anticipating the needs of his customers translated into making his company one of the most valuable in the world; that’s clearly illustrated by the fact that Apple stock sold for about $75 a share 10 years ago, and currently sells for about $128 per share. That’s an example of the true ‘value’ of successfully anticipating your clients’ future needs.
- Invest in R&D, and Human ‘Capital’: There’s an old adage in business: ‘no risk, no reward’. Nowhere is that truer than when it comes to investments in research & development (R&D). The very notion of R&D is based upon investing in the exploration of new ideas and technologies, with no guarantee of return on investment (ROI). The same concept holds true when hiring new staff; perform due diligence, and then make a capital investment in the talents (and future returns) of new employees who will help your business continue to grow
- Learn To Listen, Not Just Hear: For senior management responsible for charting the course of any company, one of the most important ingredients in keeping a business innovative is having the ability to listen to the wise people around you. Having the most talented, innovative team–or products–is of no value if a company’s leadership refuses to listen to new, and different ideas.
Achieving success is a notable and worthy goal. But in order to remain successful, a business must never delude itself into believing that its product or service is irreplaceable; in the world of business, ‘tomorrow’ does, indeed, belong to the innovative companies who are never fully satisfied with what they’ve accomplished today.