Innovation Doesn't Have To Be "Risky Business"

Posted by: Rod Kurtz on May 12, 2009

I recently talked with a retailer who was concerned about trying to innovate during the downturn. The owner was worried about losing everything if resources were diverted from the tried and true—approaches, products, services, etc.—to something new and unproven.

This feeds the myth that innovation means risky business, requiring a leap of faith to try something you haven’t done before. In fact, innovation can be evolutionary, about small changes that involve low levels of risk. This can take several forms, including offering a product or product line with new features alongside the traditional models. It can be adding a service, such as delivery, warranties, repairs, custom design, etc., while continuing to offer the line of existing services. It can be using student interns who receive college credit for helping you develop a Web presence.

The point is that to innovate, you have to start thinking about it, and challenging yourself and your business to question tradition and look to where the industry is heading. You shouldn’t bet the store—and you don’t have to. Innovation isn’t a gamble. It’s a way of being—and staying—in business.

Lisa Gundry
Professor of Management
Director, The Center for Creativity and Innovation
DePaul University
Chicago

Reader Comments

James Todhunter

May 12, 2009 8:09 AM

You are so right. Innovation doesn't have to be risky. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Good innovation practices actually reduce risk by ensuring business initiatives are well aligned with both the needs of the customer and the goals of the business as well as validating the execution plans early so as to minimize any potential downside. In today's challenging climate, inaction is the riskiest path for a business to follow.

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