Innovate or Die



Authors: Pradip Sinha,
Associate Consultant,
ICMR (IBS Center for Management Research).

Today, success has become an impermanent achievement which can be taken away by competitors any time. It has rather become a fundamental requisite for companies to continuously innovate and evolve according to the ever-changing moods of the customers for their survival and growth. If they fail, unfortunately, there will be no tomorrow for them.


We know that the bigger and better we get, the higher the hurdles become. Therefore it is incumbent upon us to challenge and continuously improve the way we run our business.


-Bernie Marcus

Why Innovation?

Today, business is nothing less than war and victory is ephemeral. Sustaining a position in the consumers' mind is an on-going battle and victory can be snatched away with the blink of an eye. The continuous battle for the top spot has forced companies to constantly innovate. Very few companies are successful in sustaining their dominant position and those that are, continuously innovate. They have the courage to attack their position in the market. Continuous innovation and self-attack are at the core of competitive strategy for the 21st century companies. Jack Trout and Al Ries (Trout and Ries) in their book Marketing Warfare say that the best way to improve a company's position is to constantly attack it. They feel that a company can keep strengthening its position by introducing new products. To put it more precisely, a moving target is hard to hit than a static one.

Innovation, for the new breed of companies, is all about changing the environment. It is about breaking the old rules and routinized work pattern and introducing new things with new standards. It means creating a sea change in the way a consumer performs his day-to-day activities.

According to professor Gurprit S Kindra, School of Management, University of Ottawa, Canada, "the ATM was an innovation which totally changed the way people used to deal with their money". Most marketing experts agree that a company needs to continuously innovate and attack itself to be a consistent performer. According to Paul Greenberg (Greenberg), President of the 56 Group, LLC and the author of CRM at the Speed of Light: Essential Customer Strategies for the 21st Century, companies need a proactive (self-attack) effort to succeed in today's business world. Professor Theodore Lewitt of Harvard Business School in an article in the Harvard Business Review nearly fifty years ago, argued that, to survive, companies must constantly look for new ways to satisfy customers' needs. Just imagine how true it is in today's context.

Willem P Burgers (Burgers), Professor of strategy and Marketing, China Europe International Business School, (CEIBS) Sanghai, China, too feels the same. He says, "The pace of change has accelerated enormously. Thus the right approach is to attack and destroy yourself before somebody else does. While attacking yourself may not bring success to you always i.e., you may have to sacrifice your short-term profits but it will benefit the company in the long run by giving stability and prosperity". The only thing companies should remember here is that they should have the courage in them to attack themselves repeatedly and not to be afraid of small failures, because these failures will be the pillars of success for them in the long run. Professor Burgers adds, "Self-attack means a constant re-innovation and re-examination of your products and processes. It is important not to be afraid of making these attacks and spending money to make these dramatic and incremental changes."

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