If you run a small or mid-sized company, you know that maintaining your innovation edge is challenging in the best of times. When the economy is down, of course, it’s even more challenging.
According to a recent article in Bloomberg Businessweek, when it comes to innovation, we may be on the road to recovery but it’s anything but business as usual.
The article is based on a survey of more than 280 product executives representing 17 different industries. Not surprisingly, good management habits are a key characteristic of companies that innovate successfully. The ability to strike a healthy balance between breakthrough advancements and incremental innovations is important, as are the ability to both prioritize and analyze quickly and accurately. On the problem side, an inability to listen to and process customer feedback, uncertainty over who is responsible for what and generally poor execution are all included as impediments to a company’s ability to innovate.
What struck me about the article is the clear link to technology. If your business is already good at the positive attributes, using technology wisely can help you improve. And if your company falls behind in any of the areas, harnessing the power of technology is even more important.
One of the survey’s findings is that innovative companies delivered on time by automating requirements, workflows and development priorities. Closely related, companies that still rely on paper-based methods and other traditional management processes experienced, not surprisingly, a slower development life cycle, especially when the products being developed are complex.
To me, the most dramatic shortcoming of companies that are falling behind in innovation is at the same time the area in which technology can have the greatest impact. By not working with customers, partners, suppliers and others in a collaborative way, companies fail to share critical information at times when that information is most helpful. And, as if that weren’t damaging enough, they cut themselves off from a wealth of ideas from trusted sources – customers and partners, for example – that often provide the initial spark for what turn out to be highly successful and innovative products and services.
In the end, the three broad characteristics that separate companies that successfully innovate from those that do not are the ability to collaborate, communicate and automate. If you’re a small or mid-sized business owner looking to sharpen your game in any of those areas, HP’s offerings in mobile computing, networking products and services, smartphones and point-of-sale solutions are great ways to get started.
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