The tale of the tortoise and the hare is an inspiring one with a debatable moral, ‘slow and steady wins the race’. This does not fit our usual perception -success is achieved opportunists, those who plunge into action taking rapid steps for their growth. Common belief has it that the quick will win the race while the slow and deliberate will trail behind. Most entrepreneurs think similarly; rapid changes are done in product design or marketing practices to achieve quick successes. The entrepreneur needs to maintain a sense of urgency, true. But he must wait for the right time to introduce his product. He must also seek to build an innovative strategy that involves new technologies, ideas and creativity, which lead to innovation and ultimately commercialization.
Innovation is important, I know, so what?
If your product doesn’t solve a problem or solves it with less than efficient means, it isn’t innovative enough. Innovation is about progress – if you aren’t solving problems more efficiently – where is the progress? Progress, implying innovation, gives life to a business in a market economy. A product or a service of a great value yesterday may be, without innovation, un-competitive, out-dated or even unwanted today. The greatest potential lies in the unknown, the undiscovered. The capability of capitalising on the unknown makes one an entrepreneur in the true sense of the word.
It’s also important to note that sometimes some entrepreneurs decide to simply follow a successful business model with very little innovation on their side and still taste success. Recent examples are the several photo pinning websites which are heavily ‘inspired’ from the online pinboard “Pinterest”- most of these websites have come up with pinboards targeting a certain segment of users. Many entrepreneurs pursue cloning business models from across the world and applying it either in their local market or make a niche vertical.
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So where does it start?
We know where the most creativity, the innovation, the stuff that drives productivity lies – in the minds of those closest to the work– Jack Welch, ex CEO General Electric
Want to be innovative? Look around! The answer is all around you. Think about anything in life, and get your lazy self together to do it in a simpler and efficient way.
It’s important to understand the need for innovation. A company may feel the need to innovate when there is competition. One should examine the working of the company and find answers to several questions like:
- Why is there a need for innovation?
- When is the right time to start adopting the changes?
- Who are the new target customers?
- Will this innovation be a safe bet in long run?
Considering these points is important. Based on the answers to these questions and examination of the practices in the firm one may:
- Focus on improving the main service or product of the company to suit the changing demand
- Improvise upon the service and the customer relations
- Try the product in a new market to attract new customers.
An example of right innovation is Apple’s iPod. The first generation iPod for Macintosh had 5GB storage, and could store up to 1,000 songs. It boasted an intuitive interface design and was, for its time, lightweight. The super success of iPod can be attributed to the iTunes store which was launched some time later (9th January, 2001). With the iPod, Apple Inc.’s focus stretched to the Music industry, shifting its focus from its core business of computing hardware and software. Apple Inc.’s balance sheets after the launch of the iPod prove that this was probably the best thing to have happened to them. The online music store was one of the biggest innovations to boost the sales of this music device.
Our final words
It’s important to be open to innovation and ideas. Actively look for it and you will find numerous opportunities. Keep a tab on the recent technological advances and how they could be used to benefit your business. Keep a good watch on your competitors. Applying Chanakya’s philosophy here, I’d say, “Keep your partners close, but your business rivals closer.” Sometimes your competitor may come up with a better business strategy than you. Recognize what’s not working with your plan and learn from your failures, evolve with them. Appreciate innovative ideas by people; this is their biggest motivation (apart from monetary incentives of course).
Observe. Innovate. Evolve.[Photo Credit: Akhil Pawar, See more of his work here]