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Innovate or Die

The one constant in business – and the world in total – is change. Successful companies change to adapt to the times; some adjust to market conditions; some companies are dragged through changes by technology. Regardless, the one thing your business can’t do is sit idly by while the world goes marching forward.

Tom Peters was credited with saying, “innovate or die!” That has never been more true than today. Innovation is the soul of change and change we must.

As Napoleon Hill put it, "Whenever a nation, a business institution, or an individual ceases to change and settles into a rut of routine habits, some mysterious power enters and smashes the setup, breaks up the old habits, and lays the foundation for new and better habits."

Is innovation something that you can learn? Is it a process that management can force through the pipeline? How does one learn to be innovative? Are there rules? Or, is it a concept, a way of doing things that you have to be open to, to embrace and to encourage.

The book Innovators DNA cites five skills that are critical to achieving true innovation. They are: 1) Question. Challenge the conventional wisdom. 2) Observe. Watch your competitors; watch your suppliers; and, most important, watch your customers. 3) Network. Seek out people with different views on life, business, people, etc. 4) Experiment. Try it… you’ll like it. 5) Associate. Look for common threads – even in seemingly disparate activities.

So… who does a good job at innovation. Funny you should ask. Fast Company recently published its list of the top 50 most innovative companies. If you’re curious…

Back to the matters at hand, as we alluded to earlier, innovation is not something confined to the world of business – or business people. Former movie actress Hedy Lamarr stands out for her efforts in the innovation field – specifically her role in developing a radio-controlled torpedo during World War II. If you’re interested, there is a new biography of Ms. Lamarr that delves into the story more fully. Hedy’s Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World was written by Richard Rhodes and is now available.

According to The Wall Street Journal, “This ‘most unusual book about a Hollywood star’ is also an object lesson in the role chance plays in innovation.”

“Innovation comes from the producer - not from the customer.” W. Edwards Deming

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