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A New York Times Innovation Report and Signs that Reveal the Need to Innovate

Recently, an internal New York Times report on their innovation programs was leaked. After reading the extensive report, I was left with one key thought — why did they not realize they needed to innovate sooner? What signs did they miss that would have allowed them take charge sooner?

For the New York Times, they may still have the chance to salvage the damage caused by missed opportunities. Lesson learned – innovate before you have to.

As the saying goes, better late than never but never late is better so here are some key indicators that your organization may need to start innovating now.

1. Stagnated Growth

In a world where “innovate or die” has become the new slogan for competitive companies, stagnated growth can be a big red flag. Perhaps in the past this was a sign that your company had matured to a point where things are the best that they can be. Now, with accelerated technology, there’s always something that can be more efficient and effective within the company and always room to innovate.

If growth has stagnated, take a look at why this is happening. Have you reached your capacity in the market? Are you providing customers with the service that they need? Is it because a new competitor has appeared?

If your company’s growth has stalled, perform an innovation health check and determine whether stagnated growth in normal or if you need to take a look at some idea programs and start innovating.

2. Struggling with Innovator’s Dilemma

The resistance to change develops because it is very difficult to want to disrupt processes that currently work. This makes sense. It’s worked thus far, so why should you change the tried and true ways? However, as mentioned before, the pace of technology has never moved faster and we need to adopt a new mentality to stay current – “if you don’t disrupt, then someone else will”. They will bring in something new, something more affordable, something that consumers didn’t even know they wanted and the impact will leave you scrambling to catch up.

Great companies become great because they are the best at what they do, but processes can always be improved and new ideas can bring inspiration back into the company. Employees are your greatest source of ideas and in turn, potential for innovation opportunities. Engaged employees are more likely to have a vested interest in improving the organization with both incremental and disruptive ideas. Consequently, the employee engagement levels are key drivers of innovation.

Are employees inspired and motivated? If not, it’s time to inject a little innovation into everyday business (perhaps with idea software). There are plenty of best practices for increasing engagement and innovation, but you have to recognize the issues first and make a commitment to enhancing the culture.

When you look around your workplace, do you see things leveling off? Catch it quick — once growth starts to decline as a result of disengaged employees, it goes down quick. As Jack Welch says, “change before you have to.”

3. Competitors stepping into Emerging Markets

In the report, NYT noted an instance where a competitor “hijacked” NYT’s material to drive traffic into their own site despite the fact that the content was originally from the NYT. BuzzFeed did what it does best. It repackaged and presented a NYT article in the form of digestable and shareable social media content driving interested social media savvy readers to the BuzzFeed site. The whole article was reduced to a few lines, and readers could choose whether to click on the article to go to the NYT site but mostly the readers snacked on the smaller, shorter and concise BuzzFeed summary.

The result? Lots of traffic for BuzzFeed and a trickle of those who clicked on the in-article link went to NYT (but of course having first visited BuzzFeed).  Without a doubt, NYT knew about the power of social media but the difference was they waited too long and before they knew it, BuzzFeed came to reap the rewards from the untapped market.

Moreover, the barriers to digital barriers are at an all time low. People can own their own virtual business with just a few dollars, not to mention the increasingly technology adept upcoming generation making the threat of new competitors even more important.

Take a step back and survey the market. Who’s stepping into your potential emerging markets? Are you prepared? Are you watching the trends and anticipating what could be coming next?

Next Steps

Do you recognize any of these signs? They are early signs that your organization need to put innovation as a priority. If you have recognized some of these red flags, the next step is to incorporate a strategy to manage innovation at your organization (P.S. we have a great post on how large companies manage innovation).

Harness the power of employee ideas.