Walking Innovation.

Are You Walking the Walk?

What do exercise and eating better have to do with innovation? All three are talked about extensively and effusively, and the follow through on all three is dismal. There is a lot of innovation talk, and very little innovation walk.

While innovation used to flourish in good times, companies flush with cash able to experiment and attempt to develop new products and services outside of their comfort zone, for some reason I feel we are entering a new stage of business, one where no matter if the times are good or bad, we expect bad times right around the corner, so we buckle down and focus on maintaining cash reserves, some of which can be used to create new and innovative products.

Apple, among others, are keeping billions on hand for some phantom near future disaster, instead of developing innovative new products (although many would argue with me that the iPhone X is innovative – it is, but to a point). Companies who should be taking this economic upturn as a sign to invest in innovation, are instead making the decisions to cut back on non-core innovation -–and focus on incremental or “core” innovation, focused on growing, or making your core business, more profitable.

Instead of leveraging these good times to develop the next set of products and services that your company will rely on, companies are using these resources to bolster their core business, not even understanding that their core business may no longer be there in 2-7 years.

Visionary companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook understand that they cannot rely on their core business forever – they are leveraging these good times to expand into even more market segments, probing for new products and services, and driving innovation.

However, you need not be Google to take advantage of these times to generate your next core business. All is needed is to walk the talk of innovation – generate ideas, yes, but develop a go-to-market strategy for any of those ideas which are worthy enough to get into the marketplace.

Even those cool and interesting ideas which may not be profitable on the surface, may end up delivering much more for your company – a steady flow of interesting new features, products and services released into the marketplace can do wonders for your investors, your customers, and your recruiting efforts.

Who doesn’t want to work in a place which generates, builds, and launches interesting new products?

We all got burned in 2008, I get that. But we cannot live in fear of it happening again forever. We are so concerned that something like that may happen again soon that we are actively shutting down efforts (like patent development programs) which typically thrive during these times.

Now is the time to take stock – you consider the mirror and decide – am I being too cautious? Should I loosen up the purse strings, just a little, and just do some more experimenting outside of our core, just to see what happens? Have we fallen into the trap of plenty of innovation talk, with very little innovation walk?