Blog: Outside the Box

What is Thing Called Innovation?

After beating a client with the word Innovation over and over, one will ask “What is Innovation?” Certainly executives and investors are looking for imagination, creativity and innovation. Imagination and creativity are found in many people with a dream but the eyes of an observer can make their own definition. I believe in my world innovation most likely will come from experience.

I have a definition in my book, The Laws of Management Physics and it goes like this, “Innovation is the ability to take ideas and success from another life and apply it successfully to new situations. (Law #95). The experience can really help start-ups and growing companies going into a new area. Companies in these stages can find help, in directors, mentors, advisors and sometimes hiring people coming from other areas of marketing and technology.

Here is an example wherein finding a different way of doing it can make a big difference: 

The president is pulling a wooden wagon with wobbly wheels up a long steep hill. The wagon is loaded with sand and pebbles, and the load is uncovered so that sand and pebbles are spilling out in all directions through the slatted sides. There is no road and the path is has pockets with holes and rocks that cause the wagon to buck and roll from side to side, forcing the president to follow a zigzag route up the hill.

For every move upward on the scarred terrain, there is a half move backward. The struggle is almost unbearable, but the obsession of this vision drives him on. His vision is to build a concrete monument with the company name on it at the top of the hill for…everyone to see.

If the staff would share his vision, the task would be made easier. “Sally Sales” would run ahead and put up a sign to let everyone know that the wagon is coming. “Andy Accounting” would separate the load and put a cover on top to keep it from blowing away. “Max Manufacturing” would repair all the leaks and strengthen the latch on the back gate. “Ed Engineering” would find a way to put a motor on the front and ease the pull. It might still take days to reach the goal at the top, but at least the president wouldn’t kill himself and he could be spending his time planning on how to best utilize the monument after it was completed.

But in today’s highly competitive market a shared vision is only half the battle. Someone may beat them to it. How great it would be if they could also rethink how they should do things, and with open-minded discussions come up with a better idea. This is where “Mary Marketing” starts to shine with her thinking and innovative planning mentality.  Mary is new to the group but she is quick to grasp the need for getting there first and also optimizing the resources. Her thinking goes way beyond the so-called box. Her response to the situation above is, “Let’s hire a helicopter and lift the load and all of us to the top of the hill and thus accomplish the task in less than half an hour.”

Changing the culture in today’s business environment is a necessity, but after sharing the vision, new and better ways must be found to pull away from the pack. This is where the need for innovation and change takes over.

Startups should find and need all the help they can get from the very beginning; therefore the addition of mentors and coaches can be a big asset.