innovate – how?


If I had a dollar for every business person who has told me that an innovation I have suggested is not necessary of feasible – months before another business has done something similar, I would be a wealthy man today.

It is not that these businesses have thought my idea did not have merit, but rather that they were not willing to spend the money, take the risk, or talk to the relevant decision makers.

My interest in innovation stems from its capacity to deliver two things:

  • A sustainable competitive advantage that lowers the cost of marketing
  • Sustained profitability in a world where product lifecycles are getting shorter

I would, and indeed have, argued that innovation is no longer optional for business wanting to sustain or increase profits. I would also argue that innovation is an ongoing process (rather than an occasional thing) that is relevant to all aspects of all businesses.

Finally, I would argue that delivering ongoing innovation throughout an organisation requires developing a ‘culture of innovation’. In my view, all organisations need to have a culture that fosters innovation.

This in turn involves:

  • Leadership – with the board and senior management demonstrating a commitment to innovation. It is from here that the permission to innovate comes.
  • Focus – on the needs of the primary target market and the barriers the market is confronting in satisfying these needs. It is here that the seeds of innovation will be found.
  • Prioritising – renewal innovation ahead of innovation focused on efficiency and extending a lifecycle. It is from here that sustainable competitive advantages will grow.
  • Understanding – by all staff of the importance of innovation and the contribution they can make to it. It is from here that the innovations will come.
  • Rewards – identifying innovation leaders, and rewarding the contribution of staff to the innovation process. It is from here that the incentive to innovate will come.
  • Resourcing – ensuring that staff members have the systems, technology, people and forums they need to research and implement innovation. It is from here that the capacity will come.
  • Processes – ensuring that the organisation has the processes necessary to bring innovations to life. It is from here that the sincerity and capacity will be demonstrated.
  • Embracing – embracing and learning from failure, viewing it as a steppingstone to longer- term success. It is from here that the will and required learning will come.
  • Actioning – and, specifically, moving to commercialise ideas that have merit as quickly as possible. It is from here that the real motivation will come.

Underpinning these initiatives there needs to be:

  • Longer term thinking and the capacity to sell a longer term vision to all stakeholders.
  • Taking the broadest possible view of innovation and its impact on all aspects of business.

I would argue that short term thinking, in addition to damaging our society and businesses in general, is the antithesis of effective innovation. Effective innovation takes time – but the results can make it time well spent.

Innovation is not just relevant to the goods or services being sold, but to all aspects of the business including how those goods and services are marketing. Innovation on marketing is all too often neglected as marketing managers play it safe.


  1. Innovation needs to be an ongoing process driven by culture.
  2. Innovation has the capacity to deliver a sustainable competitive advantage that drives profitability.
  3. A strategic approach to innovation is required to create and sustain an innovative culture.
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