Learning to Innovate in International Trade

Innovation is the key to global business success

Piano wire can be used in many different ways.

“Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it’s the only one you have.” – Emile Auguste Chartier, French philosopher, journalist, pacifist and teacher

Most of us have been down this path before. You’re at a networking event and someone mentions this absolutely brilliant idea and says he is going to move ahead with it, find a supply source and sell it like hotcakes on his e-commerce site. Great. But what about this: In an attempt to beat his competitors, is the individual too early with his idea or should he wait until it catches on so as not to inherit so much financial or first-to-market pain?

In this article, I talk about what companies do wrong on innovation, what companies do right, and how to ensure your ideas are worth pursuing.

First things first. Businesses need to update or die. Remember Kodak? Co-founder of AOL Steve Case does. “They [Kodak] knew one day digital photography would threaten their core business -- indeed, they knew this because engineers at Kodak invented digital photography. But corporate executives were reticent when it came to planning for the digital future. Eventually they went bankrupt.” (Source:  http://www.foxnews.com/us/2016/05/05/how-steve-case-is-preparing-for-web-third-wave.html)

Think of updating as innovation. It can be updating your website, launching a blog or finally mastering Periscope, the app that lets you ‘go live’ via your mobile device anytime or anywhere.  Each of these tasks requires a bit of innovation, doing something new that you haven’t done that will put you in a new league, preferably one where you rise above the clutter to achieve high performance and generate new business.

The secret to when and how to innovate lies in having a clear, logical and comprehensive plan in place that will guide you every step of the way to your market transforming outcome.

Here’s What Companies Do Wrong on Innovation

In working with a lot of global small business clients who want to rise above the crowd, they often do the following wrong when they are ready to innovate:

  1. Jump on a bandwagon. For example, they might totally focus on Web 3.0, crowdfunding or green business. They ask themselves: How can I be a part of this in a big way?  
  2. Ignore what’s happening in the marketplace.  At the same point, there’s a fine line between jumping on a trend too early and not taking advantage of what’s happening currently.  All too often clients ignore or delay an opportunity to invest in something hot because innovation is not living up to expectations or it feels like it really applies to their business. For example, think along the lines of establishing a Twitter account or creating a blog. 

What a company needs to do is drill down into the trade-offs that must be made when prioritizing a set of possible innovations. When you do this, you end up adopting the right innovations at the right time.

Here’s What Companies Can Do Right on Innovation

According to Catherine Palmieri in “Boost Your Innovation Confidence,” four things should be considered when trying to make a success of your innovation plan:

  1. Know your customers
  2. Understand new technologies
  3. Embrace failure
  4. Take a leap of faith.

Source: http://www.strategy-business.com/article/00320

Here’s What You Need to Be Careful of With Innovation Right Now

With the Internet and technology, we’re seeing a more experimental society (everyone is an entrepreneur these days!).

The vast number of new ideas that come forward are extraordinary. Many of them might be half-baked, but who cares? We’re trying, right? And the more ideas you put out there, the greater your chances of having one of them stick and become a success! So we’ve moved from beta testing to unending testing of ideas – from Indiegogo to Kickstarter to GoFundMe – where we are able to not only ask people to fund our ideas but even contribute to the making of them.

But here’s the word of caution. For all the great ideas you might have, is your team ready, willing and able to execute on all of them to ensure they become a success? If not, stop producing endless ideas and start thinking about how to adopt a few good ones to the marketplace.

Ensure Your Ideas for Products and Services Are Worth Pursuing

It’s simple: Instead of originating ideas, try adapting them to your core capabilities and processes to match your competitive needs.

In other words, adopt, adapt and exploit existing innovations for your own business’s success.​

Case in point No. 1. Let’s say you run a media relations company and want to create a blog to help cement your position as an expert, which will give you a global platform to provide extraordinary content for your clients, potential clients, partners, and fans.  You don’t have to develop a platform from scratch to make a success out of it – sounds brilliant though, doesn’t it? Instead, you can look at existing website tools, such as WordPress that works well with an existing website, or Google’s Blogger that ties in nicely with a Google+ account, making setting up and maintaining a blog super easy. Tumbler, a micro-blogging platform, also makes it really simple for people to make a blog and put whatever they want on it. 

Once you get started creating and writing a blog, then let the global marketplace decide on whether it’s a must read or not. After all, isn’t that what innovation is all about? 

Case in point No. 2.  Let’s say your core capability is manufacturing piano wire.  Ask yourself:  What other applications is my product or service valid for?  Piano wire (pictured) doesn’t have to be used only in pianos and other musical instruments.  It can also be used productively in the fabrication of springs, fishing lures, special effects in the movie industry, and for cutting soap.

Other ideas:  Perhaps a favorite food dish in Italy could be made better and/or more quickly if you changed the speed of a kitchen mixer that you sell there.  Or maybe reconfiguring an existing vacuum attachment would be perfect for some out-of-the-way corners in the households in Japan.
The name of the global game is to remain ahead of the curve in any market condition and have innovation become second nature or a core competency at your firm. Are you up to the task? Can you transition fast enough to beat your competition?

Photo Credit: margaretsdad