In the words of the late tech titan and entrepreneur Steve Jobs – “Innovation helps you distinguish between a leader & a manager”. Although we all wish to be like him, we always wonder how? Where do we go, what should we do and what is really that “ahaa” moment that will set us up for success? If you are thinking about these, you are completely off track and far far away from reality.
The foundation for any great company, product and brand is a clarity of purpose and a crystal clear plan to achieve it. Steve Jobs passionately believed that technology can solve most human problems, even ones as complex as cancer! It was his commitment to provide tools to those who shared his vision, that helped him design computers, laptops and other products to support and better the human race.
It was this clear focus in his life that helped him design the best products that can support all those people who want to use tech to solve other challenges that the human race faces. This clarity of purpose and a laser like focus on its mission was something that most tech giants lacked back then and they lack it even today. Most of them focus exclusively on maximizing their profits and shareholder value – without thinking about going beyond the ordinary.
A great example for this is Sony electronics of Japan. Sony was a huge player in the music industry during the 1990s and Apple is believed to be responsible for it losing customers. A lot of people who listened to music using their walkmans and cassette players, abruptly shifted to the iPod once it was launched. The irony of this situation is that Apple was not the first to come up with this product – it was Sony which had come up with an MP3 player like music device, but it was shelved as they believed, it would kill their walkman! The same thing happened a few years later, but this time, it was a rival with the same product.
Yes, innovation can kill your brand, if you don’t know how to handle the new product or research. An idea whose time has come, cannot be resisted and it is bound to make an impact, whether anyone likes it or not.
Another interesting example is of the automobile company Volvo. Auto companies spend a lot on research and development and they keep coming up with new technologies for their car models in order to be perceived as the best auto company. They are also very careful & competitive with respect to branding, marketing & sales as one wrong decision can be a huge loss. A failed car brand or a model will result in them having to make substantial changes to their manufacturing facilities and huge write offs in their ad and marketing spends. The losses areeasily to the tune of a few hundred million Dollars.
Volvo has been selling cars since 1927 & it celebrated its 90th anniversary this year. Everything that the company does revolves around Safety. They are always careful to highlight the fact that they don’t sell cars. They underscore their belief that they are in the business of providing a safe family lifestyle. Safety is all that they revolve around. It is a focus on this core value that has allowed them to come up with unique products that have appealed to consumers for over a century.
Volvo is an excellent and an age old example of innovation and its successful implementation because it is focused on the core values of the company.
As mentioned earlier, innovation is not exactly difficult, but its implementation is what vexes most company managements. A lot of examples of good tech companies going bankrupt have filled the pages of newspapers in the past few years. All because, they did not have a clear focus or an idea as to where this product can be best implemented.
This challenge is faced daily by many many managements, before investing a significant amount of funds in a new product. It is not always possible to take the best possible decision, but it is possible to learn from the decisions that others have taken over the years. BSE Institute Ltd (BIL) offers a one year course in Advance Management for senior industry professionals who are in line to lead their organizations. The course curriculum dwells on major challenges, such as, innovation implementation, which the senior managements face regularly.
Innovation is a lot like a new business. You need to look before you leap, but it is next to impossible to know everything that can or will happen after you leap. Best of luck to you