Innovate I: What Does Innovation Look Like?

innovation light bulb

If you could pick one company or product that, in your mind, defined innovation, who or what would it be? I asked myself that same question after I was approached by my coworker Michael Rupchock, our video and graphics editor to co-write a blog on innovation. It’s interesting that he chose this topic, because this is something I’ve been discussing in one of the groups I belong to on LinkedIn – as well as an article in the November 2009 issue of Entrepreneur.

If you’re a fan of the book Blue Ocean Strategy one of the first companies that might come to mind when thinking about innovation would be Cirque de Soleil – the world famous show that combines the pageantry of live theater and the dynamic acrobatics of a traditional circus. There are plenty of other examples – in every industry and in all parts of the world. A personal favorite of mine would be Apple’s iPhone. While it’s certainly not “new” now – Apple was the first to mass market a phone with its capabilities and it revolutionized the way we use cell phones. Apple is always on the cutting edge of innovation, and leads (rather than follows) the technology pack. Since the iPhone was launched, many other cell phone developers have created their own versions of a touch screen phone in hopes of competing with the iPhone. A hyped Motorola Droid was introduced in November creating a techie frenzy driven by heavy TV advertising – but only time will tell if it really outperforms the iconic iPhone.

Innovation is the lifeblood of any business or organization – from the one-person consulting business to the global appliance manufacturer. Innovation keeps companies relevant in a time when competition is always nipping at their heels- by delivering products and services that anticipate future customer wants and needs – rather than playing catch up. How are companies innovating? What is the driving force behind an organization’s innovation?

Crisis Drives Innovation

Yesterday, I read an interesting blog post by Michael Arndt on He believes that out of crisis comes the necessity to innovate. Considering that we’re trying to dig out of the worst financial recessions my generation has seen, I was intrigued by this idea and decided to dig into the concept of crisis-driven innovation.

Remember that nasty little dot com bubble and subsequent bust in the early part of the decade? A lot of companies went belly-up and investors lost millions of dollars. But some of those same ideas and innovations birthed Web 2.0 – taking it from just a source of information and one-sided communication to a dynamic environment that facilitates e-commerce, information sharing and entire Internet-based industries. Now that we’re in another recession, companies are forced to find new and better ways of doing things. While not all of these tactics qualify as innovation (like downsizing), the organizations that can develop alternatives to their challenges will find themselves out in front of competitors when the dust settles. Companies that don’t innovate could find themselves on the extinction list. What works today, what’s hot today and what sells today may be a distant memory tomorrow.

Make sure you check back soon for the second part of PentaVision’s series on innovation, where our very own Michael Rupchock will discuss the first important step to bringing innovation to your industry. Until then, keep the ideas coming!

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Missy Stanisz

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12 2009

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