When you think of companies that have a reputation for excellence in innovation, Apple most likely comes to mind. Steve Jobs once said:
"To turn really interesting ideas and fledgling technologies into a company that can continue to innovate for years, it requires a lot of disciplines."
Economic growth inextricably ties to innovation in one form or another. Brown University notes: "Today, approximately one-half of economic growth is a direct consequence of technology innovation. In order to find new ways to build new businesses in an increasingly digital world, entrepreneurs as well as industry leaders will need to explore the synergy between innovation and management once again."
What are some of the successful, inventive strategies that have been used by Apple? What lessons can be learned from them? Here are five ways your enterprise can use Apple's best practices to lead in your chosen field of endeavor.
1) Stay ahead of the curve.
"Let's go invent tomorrow instead of worrying about what happened yesterday." – Steve Jobs
Accept the fact that products and business models go through a predictable cycle of growth and maturity. This pattern is often depicted as an S-curve. A Harvard University article about growth strategies states, "The time to innovate is when the first growth curve hits an inflection point. How do you know when you're hitting the inflection point? You never know. So the best companies are forever paranoid and make innovation a continuous process."
Apple is a prime example of a company that embraces the idea of continuous improvement, which is why it was willing to branch out into the mobile device business.
2) Assemble the right team.
"Innovation has nothing to do with how many R&D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R&D. It's not about money. It's about the people you have, how you're led, and how much you get it." – Steve Jobs
Surrounding yourself with people who embrace innovation as a mindset will infuse a creative spirit throughout your corporate culture. Look for those employees who excel at thinking outside the box. Then, give them space to let their inventive spirits soar.
3) Learn to see the open spaces.
"You can't just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they'll want something new." – Steve Jobs
Instead of focusing primarily on how to compete in an established, crowded marketplace, true innovators look for uncontested openings in the market. While it is true that you must attend to the stated needs of your customers to remain competitive, you can gain a real edge by anticipating customer desires before they become apparent.
Innovation, then, is anticipatory in nature. Concentrate on keeping an eye out to catch building consumer trends before they become readily apparent to all industry watchers. Consider ways to provide something to your customers that well exceeds their expectations.
4) Celebrate and support corporate creativity.
As part of his Think Different campaign, Jobs commissioned "The Crazy Ones", a video highlighting people who changed the world with the power of their ideas. His message employees was clear; corporate leadership encouraged risk-taking, thinking outside the box and changing the world.
You can channel this same spirit by encouraging creativity from the top of your organization down. Facilitate creativity by modeling acceptance and approval of new and interesting ideas from your employees.
5) Diversify your innovation projects.
"We know what a smartphone looks like and does. It's not the fault of Tim Cook, but it's not an area where there will be any more innovation." – Peter Thiel, VC and Facebook board member.
Another way to use Apple's example is to avoid some common innovation missteps that the organization may be making right now. Reflected in the quote above, Peter Thiel believes that the "Age of Apple" is over. Whether you believe Thiel's prediction about the company's future or not, the lesson is clear; your creative efforts should not center around one product or project entirely. While Apple has introduced some products other than smartphones to the market, products like the Apple Watch have failed to capture the imagination of consumers. It would seem that, for now at least, the company's innovation initiatives are a little off point.
If you are looking for a means of sustainable growth for your business, it is imperative to embrace innovation as a means to that end. Follow the example of market leaders by:
- Staying ahead of the curve
- Assembling the right team
- Discerning open spaces in the marketplace
- Celebrating and supporting corporate creativity
- Diversifying your innovation efforts
We are always excited to see how other industry leaders stay innovative. Geneca's unique approach to product invention outlines the way our clients are continuously innovating. What are some successful strategies your organization has used to advance products? Please add your comments below.