TWICs: Innovation for Growth

Smart growth. 

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Among the feeds in the dailies section of my Feedly RSS reader is Tim Kastelle‘s brilliant blog on Innovation for Growth. Tim and friends regularly break down the topic of innovation into its smaller pieces. Their aim? Clearly, to better understand innovation; what it really is, how it happens, and – most important of all – how to consistently innovate.

Ironically, Tim’s word for the Distillery Project wasn’t innovation, it was impact, but that leads me to the comment I posted on his blog today, regarding his recent thoughts on the Innovation Matrix 4.0. That’s right. It’s another installment of comments as blog posts!

One thing screams out at me as I read this, though – growth. Growth is definitely important, but just as “innovation” is often reduced to a meaningless buzzword, so too is “growth.” If at all possible, I think it would be interesting to see how innovation drives growth in areas beyond shipping more widgets or raising capital.

The local Mom-n-Pop business with only two employees – Mom & Pop – might want to pursue growth as a means to provide enough full-time work for their children, perhaps a couple members of the local community. But should, say, Apple – now worth more on paper than something like half the members of the UN combined – really be focused on growth like this? I think not. That kind of thinking will only lead to a race to the bottom; commoditization and corner-cutting. (I believe they’re headed that direction.)

A lot of people think innovation is merely the next big idea they can use to increase sales. Thing is, innovation is fuel for growth in other areas. Like you said, increasing value. Innovate to reduce customer service costs while simultaneously improving employee – and customer – engagement. Innovate to convert supply chains into supply cycles, reducing costs, reducing waste, reducing emissions, and adding value to the community, region, planet.

I think we’re on the cusp of a fairly radical change in business, Tim. I see the Big Box retail outlets facing increased resistance and pressure on the global market. I see “Medium Box” retail organizations going out of business in nearly every strip mall I pass, as more and more customers take their shopping online. (Why should we pay more to cover their overhead and inefficiencies?)

I see a future where growth means growing the product/service offering to – again – add real value; where more effort goes into delivering benefits than into suggesting them. Let the big boxes wither on the vine while we get our commodities from efficient, friendly, online sources anywhere in the world, and let the local retail spaces once filled with corporate, franchised bloat, be taken over by high-mix-low-volume specialists with roots in the local community.

To me, that’s where innovation-driven growth can be a potent competitive advantage.

Yeah. This is something I’ve kinda been thinking about for a while. Thanks to Tim helping me get it out.

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Posted in brainstorm, commentary, community, knowledge management, Penmanshift