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.
Professor of Management
Director, The Center for Creativity and Innovation
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