Brands need to Innovate or they will Fade

How are You Innovating?
In Australia there is no doubt we have a two speed economy operating, and if you’re not in the resources game you are experiencing the ‘slow lane’. Many businesses and brands are doing it tough. An article in one of the daily newspapers recently reported on the large number of times the word ‘challenging’ is appearing in company results when reporting annual or half yearly results to the stock market. There seems to be myriad of factors working against growing one’s business, however the question remains, what are you doing to change the way you compete in order to adapt to the new market conditions?

It would be time well spent to explore what you are doing differently today in how you compete to what you were doing two years ago? If your proposition is still the same, then you will be not only in the slow lane, you will probably also be in the diminishing lane. Gary Hamel in his new book, What Matters Now: How To Win In A World Of Relentless Change, suggests that we are living in a world that seems to be all punctuation and no equilibrium, where the future is less and less an extrapolation of the past. He says the most important question for any is this: are we changing as fast as the world around us?

While Hamel is advocating innovation, he is also acknowledging how hard is it to stay innovative. Tow-thirds of the businesses in Fast Company’s 2009 list of the 50  most innovative companies didn’t make it into the 2010 edition. One company that does keep producing year after year and derives a living out of innovation, is the US preeminent design firm IDEO. They are a firm that understand how to enhance organisational capability in innovation. They always start with immersion and observation in the market context they are exploring. They seek to understand the subtle nuances about how participants in a market operate. They then create alternative scenarios as to how a product or service could be different. They see it as a phase of intellectual experimentation. But where IDEO, really hum is what they do with the best ideas born out of this stage. They distinguish themselves by their ability to undertake rapid and inexpensive prototyping. They refer to it as ‘building to think’ instead of thinking about what to build. They move beyond the theory of an idea, and put it into practice – they play with it and  learn from it.

The Faraday, an electric bicycle to inspire everyday riding
(IDEO designers partnered with frame-builder Rock Lobster)

The power of prototyping or pilot testing is you fast track moving to evidence based decision making. Most organisations are risk adverse, so there is real value in demonstrating the potential of an innovation, in order to get the resource commitment to making it a reality. However, regardless of what approach you use to drive innovation, you need to be innovating. If you are not, start the conversation internally as to why you are not. At the very least try and understand what is constraining you, and make a conscious decision as to whether you are willing to accept those constraints, and thereby suffer the consequences.

Peter Singline
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