Apple, Google, Facebook, Toyota, Coca Cola, Nike, Microsoft, BMW… what is common to all of these. Yes, they are all leaders in their respective industries and markets. But the one thing that ties them all is their sustained commitment to their vision and the values they stand for. However, I think the real secret behind their success is an aspect of their leadership and that is what I call ‘the pursuit of innovation’. This is indeed the true differentiating factor that separates the leaders from followers and distinguishes the champions from the players.
As part of this post, I touch upon a few aspects of how we can seek innovation by leveraging our strengths and managing change. I also give a few real life organizations and their products to understand the practical aspects of seeking innovation for greater value creation. We can draw lessons from these as to how one needs to pursue innovation and leverage it for continual success and leadership. This is not an exhaustive list though and there are a lot of different ways and perspectives to look at innovation and imbibe it in our own organizations and work spheres.
Focus on value-creation, not technology
When we talk about innovation, invariably technology gets highlighted more often and in some cases innovation is equated with better technology. Yes, technology is perhaps the best medium to deliver innovation and it is undoubtedly the most-successful factor in transitioning your vision into reality. If you are a technology company and your core offering itself is technology, then of course, you can safely lean on it and claim that you are have innovated and created better technology. However, in most cases, bear in mind that technology is merely a vehicle and the real driver is business. And the key is the value delivered to your stakeholders, customers and users.
Turn threats into opportunities
Take any industry, any segment and any product line, we already have hundreds and thousands of companies, brands and products. Globalization would have brought about huge benefits but along with the opportunities, it also brought about threats for companies. They have new competition now and not just new but this competition comes in different sizes, shapes and formats. With the advent of Internet there is another aspect of ‘opportunity-threat’ that manifested itself to organizations, worldwide.
The Web, they claim is the largest communication device ever invented by man. It changed the way we work, live, and communicate. It also brings with it another aspect and this time in the form of intense competition. Your biggest competitor is just a click away and within a few seconds an impression could be created and a deal is made or lost. But then all is not lost yet and you can turn this to your advantage. The real secret of success with Web lies in how well you embrace it for your advantage.
Not a destination, but a journey
Innovation is not a one-time activity which an organization or individual does once to achieve success. To succeed and lead the pack, we need to innovate continually and our products and services should be a reflection of this. There is no place for contentment in this dynamic world where the cliched saying ‘Change is the only constant’ is true to its letter and spirit. Continual improvement in products and services and consistent delivery of value is what separates the leaders from the followers.
For instance, Apple never moves away from their mantra of delivering superior experiences to their users and this philosophy is pretty much reflected very strongly in all their products ranging from Macintosh to iPod and from iPhone to iPad. It is Apple’s constant endeavor to keep their users on top, and make them happy with every new product line, product, and release that they create.
Leverage your strengths
One way to pursue innovation is by identifying your strengths and leveraging them for your competitive advantage. Every organization needs to pursue the case of innovation and champion the cause of their users’ delight. No matter how big or small the organization is, how large or small the market is, how specialized or generic the offering is…every organization has to strive to strike the right chord with their users. Only this would help these organizations to be successful with their offering, whether its a product or a service.
A case in point is Bose audio systems which prides themselves with the tagline ‘Better sound through research’ . Amar Bose, who started off the company as an extension of his research project at M.I.T., came out with his offering of better sound supported through an innovative approach. Bose, with their Wave technology and its application, broke the myth that ‘bigger the speaker, better was the sound’. Focusing on delivering better user experiences, Bose took over the market and continued to churn out products that offer greater value and experience to users.
Make a difference – create ‘the change’
The only way to survive in this competitive world is to cut the clutter and make a difference. I came across this interesting quote about change – ‘People who change after change survive. People who change with the change, succeed. People who cause the change, lead’. How true and relevant in the ‘melting pot’ world that we are living in, nowadays!
Dyson is renowned the world over for their hand dryers. Dyson’s hand dryers are known for their efficient, hygienic and energy-saving capabilities. Dyson did not stop at delivering great drying experience to their users and value for their customers. They leveraged their command over the air flow technology and created an alternative approach to a ubiquitous product that we all know and use, a fan. Yes, Dyson invented the blade-less circular fans which are efficient, easy to maintain and comfortable to use. Again, a case of making a difference despite the size of the organization, product, or market, thereby offering unmatched innovation through delightful user experience.