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Applying Innovation To Grow Your Business
By Alan Patching   Printer Friendly Version

If your business is alive and well this time next year, or this time in five years, it might well be because you have followed, either actively or subconsciously, the Basic Entrepreneurial Model.

The principles of the Basic Entrepreneurial Model are that, to survive in business, we must:

1. Continue to develop innovative products and services
that meet the needs of the market.

2. Produce and package them well, and

3. Market and sell them effectively.

Without innovation in our business, we run the risk of failing to maintain what the Americans call our Unique Selling Proposition and the British refer to as the Distinctive Competence. Both of these terms simply refer to the aspects of a business which sets it apart from its competitors and prevents its products from becoming just 'commodities'.

When products or services become 'commoditised', customers are more likely to make buying decisions solely on the basis of price. One sure way for a business to be distinctive in a manner that extends buying decisions beyond price alone is for it to continually develop innovative products and/or services to meet market needs. That is, to observe the first principle of the Basic Entrepreneurial Model. But just how does a business go about being innovative?

In our book, The Futureproof Corporation, Dr. Denis Waitley and I propose a corporate philosophy of all members of an organization having two distinctive 'positions' or roles. The first is the traditional hierarchical role. In this role, traditional respect for hierarchical position is given and received. The second role is one of always delivering results and never excuses in relation to the tasks set via the hierarchical system.

Think about this concept of delivering results and not excuses for a minute, for it places awesome responsibility on all levels of the organization. It also affords the freedom (in balance with responsibility) that fosters the creative thought from which flows innovation. The system has been applied in the construction industry for decades. Here, corporate management defines parameters of cost, time and quality for a project and delegates it to appropriately qualified and experienced product managers to deliver management's expectations. Results are expected, excuses for poor performance are seldom tolerated. People respond because they work in small teams where their input is important. This motivating feeling of importance is seldom experienced when a person is just another number in a huge corporate structure.

Managers may have difficulty in the concept of being senior in the corporate hierarchy, and at the same time possibly subordinate, or at least restricted in influence, in the team charged with delivering established objectives. On the other hand, employees may have difficulty in accepting that, once an objective is defined by senior hierarchical management, the team members must take control of all input to delivery of the expected results. If that means pressuring more senior managers for required input, then so be it. Clearly, communication skills must be finely honed in the Futureproof Corporation!

Let's now take a look at the 'mental protocol' side of innovation. Innovation, theoretically at least, stems from creativity, which, in turn, can be defined as making something from nothing. Well, most corporate psychologists would agree that not all creativity follows this definition. Broadly speaking creativity or innovation will increase in our organizations if we establish a discipline addressing four distinctive concepts. These are known as novel thought, extension, duplication, and synthesis.

Novel thought is true creativity. It is developing a product or service based on no previous similar product or service. An example is the Australian 'T-Vasis' runway lighting system used around the world to safely guide airlines visually down the approach glide path to the destination runway.

Extension involves extending one's current boundaries of knowledge by looking at what is happening outside of our industry or profession and extending on this new found knowledge to arrive at innovation solutions to grow our business. An example is South West Airlines of the USA studying racing car pit crews in an attempt to shorten terminal turn around times.

Duplication involves adapting into our business approaches that work elsewhere. One example is the bringing of teamwork into the airline flight deck management to replace the autocratic 'the captain rules' environment of the past.

Synthesis is the process of collecting data from a variety of sources and integrating it in a way that provides an innovative solution to our own business growth. A current example is the super cruise liners being developed. These are huge hulls with superstructure comprising a couple of hotels run by different operators. The cruise company will provide the transport. The hotels will provide and manage the sleeping, eating, and entertainment facilities.

I urge you to take the challenge and to inspire innovative thought in your organization. With the assistance of the principles outlined above, even the most 'left brain' people among us have the chance of coming up with a real winner.

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