Plugging Forward

31 March 09


It’s been an exciting few weeks for some of the world’s most famous innovators. Apple unveiled the latest iPhone/iPod Touch operating system (who knew software could be so exciting?) and unveiled its third-generation iPod shuffle. Amazon released the Kindle2, a welcomed follow-up to its popular eReader. Facebook updated its homescreen layout. Google released a new ‘Undo Send’ feature to GMail. The list goes on… you get the idea.

The point is that things are still happening-despite all the negativity out there, smart companies are still plugging forward and improving their offerings. The five companies mentioned here have always kept things fresh with a pipeline of updates and enhancements, and that’s part of the reason these companies have done well. Just when things start to feel stale, they give their customers something new. Enhancements and updates are a relatively quick, low-risk way to keep innovation alive (and demand high) regardless of what’s happening in the economy.

What can you do to invigorate demand by freshening up your offerings? What small, meaningful enhancements and upgrades can you release? If you’re at a loss for ideas, just talk to your customers or scan customer reviews and you’ll uncover a trove of potentially valuable ideas. Just remember, innovation doesn’t always have to be ground-breaking and risky… sometimes the little things can have a big impact.

What does innovation look like for your organization given the state of the economy?


Keeping the Wheels Turning

26 February 09

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been conducting a series of interviews with innovation leaders from a variety of organizations. From P&G and Estee Lauder to Sandia National Laboratories and NESTA, every leader we have spoken to has expressed a few common themes around what type of person makes for a successful innovation effort, especially in this economy.

In short: innovators are people who can look beyond the problems and challenges in front of them. They look past what they can see and hear and touch and come up with ideas and solutions that get to the root of a problem. The economy? It’s not the root of the problem; so it’s not an excuse for putting innovation on hold. Innovators consistently identify ways to move forward, even when everything else seems to be pulling them back. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s No Time to Forget About Innovation

12 November 08

futurethink-new-york-times-innovation-unboxedLast week, the New York Times published a great article on innovation in the current (depressing) economic climate. The main point of the article is what we’ve been telling our clients for months: don’t let a shaky economy kill your innovation efforts. 

A particularly interesting point in the article focuses on how imporant it is maintain a widespread climate of innovation in your organization. 

There are important things managers can do to ensure that creative forward-thinking doesn’t go out the door with each round of layoffs. Fostering a companywide atmosphere of innovation — encouraging everyone to take risks and to think about novel solutions, from receptionists to corner-suite executives — helps ensure that the loss of any particular set of minds needn’t spell trouble for the entire company. Read the rest of this entry »

Looking Ahead Without Falling Behind

24 September 08

It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks in the business world. Our current economic climate and everything that’s happening on Wall Street may seem apocalyptic, but remember: this too shall pass.

It almost seems ironic that we’re in the midst of strategic planning season when no one seems quite sure what it is they should be planning for.  The way we see it, you have two options. You can stand still and wait to see what happens, or you can charge ahead with an eye on the future. (Hint: You can’t afford to stand still)

We were inspired this month by a blog post by James Gardner of Bankervision. In The role of innovators in future thinking, Gardner discusses the importance of thinking about (and planning for) the future, and poses an interesting exercise. Think up a seemingly far-fetched future scenario that would impact your business or industry ($500 oil? Carbon taxes?). Play out the implications in two ways: one in which your organization stays the course and ignores this scenario, and one in which you’ve taken it into account throughout your regular planning process. How do you fare in each scenario? Read the rest of this entry »