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Innovation Lessons from Industry Giants

Renowned industry giants are the pace-setters when it comes to invention, but as for innovation, they can sometimes find themselves stumbling. The path to sustained and continuous innovation is not smooth and here are four key lessons that every innovative organization should learn in order to keep up with the pace of innovation.

1. Collaboration Is Key

As much as Apple and IBM may seem to be embroiled in some sort of techie battle, both companies have teamed up to solve two key problems that require the help of the other:

  • IBM has long struggled to fully take advantage of mobile technologies
  • Apple has struggled to take advantage of its market position in businesses

This collaboration is a bold move on both companies’ part, but it shows a great level of flexibility and willingness to change and try new things by working together — this is key when it comes to innovation.

2. Culture Is the Foundation of Innovation

Microsoft recently announced that they would be restructuring and realigning their workforce in an effort to create a culture that will “bring [Microsoft’s] ambitions to life.” While in their situation this means the unfortunate lay-off of many current employees, the message that one has to take from this is clear: culture is a key player when it comes to supporting innovation. Without having an organizational culture that supports the current and future goals of the company, the innovations that would otherwise be produced within it would likely never be developed.

3. Innovate Now, Not Later

As the New York Times has certainly learned, being behind the ball when it comes to innovation can result in severe consequences. Due to the limiting and antiquated systems that are still in place, and the staff who continue to embrace them, the digital overhaul that this newspaper giant has been hoping to help maintain their readership has actually resulted in a drop not only in website visits, but smartphone app engagement as well. The lesson to be learned here? Do not allow old encumbering practices and procedures keep you from venturing out and trying new things. The companies that have taken risks and have made great strides to create new solutions for long-term success are those that are taking the lead in today’s world.

4. Avoid Innovation Gridlock

Camera and film giant Kodak’s filing of chapter eleven bankruptcy protection in 2012 should prove one thing to innovators: innovation gridlock is a double-edged sword that can drain a company dry. Once one of America’s leading companies, Kodak failed to take the leap into digital innovations early on out of fear of shrinking their profit margins, which were largely backed by film and film development sales. However, this hesitation to enter into the digital camera and film industry (which the company ultimately did) and create new ways in how the company can be profitable in this space is what has led to the slump which the company has found itself in today. On the flip side, Polaroid has reinvented itself with new trendy cameras embracing the social media-savvy younger generation to promote its products.

No company is too big to stumble when it comes to technology innovation. Thankfully stumbling is just that. A misstep. In the mean time we can learn to avoid stumbling by focusing on collaboration within our organization and with other organizations, making culture a priority, innovating now and embracing new technology trends.

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