Innovation

Innovate or perish: do you have what it takes to survive?

Roger La Salle /

As a speaker on innovation at this year’s Professional Conference Organisers (PCO) conference in November, it might be timely to reiterate the need for innovation in all types of business.

Complacency in business, especially in these tough times, will soon lead to business stagnation and ultimately business failure.

To give some context. In a book entitled Building Wealth by MIT professor Lester Thurow, the alarming statistic was revealed that whereas in the 1920s the life expectancy of a US-based business was some 65 years, by the 1990s this had fallen to less than 10!

The fact is that no matter what business you’re in, you can be sure if it is highly profitable others will soon enter the market and saturation will inevitably occur with profits eroded to somewhere near bank interest rates.

Consequently, if bank rates rise significantly the marginal players or those with excessive overheads will ultimately succumb.

Being number one is no safeguard

In the past, Boeing dominated the passenger aircraft business but now play second fiddle to Airbus Industries. Airbus may now be leader, but look to the future as the Chinese work to develop their own aircraft manufacturing business. And in the future, if not already, China will be the largest market for airliners with strong nationalistic instincts motivating them to buy locally.

A further example of market saturation can be seen in the proliferation of petrol stations, and of course convenience stores that have now popped up on almost every shopping strip. In the future, as convenience stores move to beat the competition, you can be sure that ultimately some will move to a drive-through model, to offer more of what they do well – provide convenience.

The bottom line is that, as a business person, if you are not aware that this saturation scenario will occur you may be ignoring the obvious and perhaps failing to explore innovations that can set you apart from the pack.

In the past the big speaking agencies were highly profitable with a well tried and true business model – the commissioned selling of speakers. But now the speaking agency business is becoming saturated with new players entering the market at every turn and all working hard to be number one on Google. Perhaps the time has come to explore some new initiatives and do more and perform better at what it is that these businesses see as core business.

So with conference organisers in mind, I ask what is it they can do to set themselves apart and be the most sought-after agency?

Innovation and opportunity capture are systematic processes

The answer, of course, lies in innovation and the systematic search for opportunities in your business space, and then to plot the trajectory of your industry over time to anticipate the future.

As a means to achieve this we can use a form of systematic thinking rather than the abstraction of pure creativity that is perhaps more confined to the performing arts.

Properly and systematically applied a structured innovation approach will naturally yield the outcomes you need to find the insights your business requires for long-term sustainability.

Change or be ready to fall by the wayside

One thing is sure, if you fail to embrace the art of innovation, your future will be at great risk as new players enter the market to steal your customers with better or different models, or perhaps just better pricing, this being the ultimate business killer as you ‘race to the bottom’.

Innovate or perish, that is overriding need of businesses today, but how many of us are really doing it?

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