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Innovating for Tomorrow

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The concept of innovation has been with us for a long time. For years, we have heard about the need to develop innovative strategies and to transform our businesses so that they can meet the emerging needs of our customers. But in today’s world of sudden and global change, innovation is no longer something that only a handful of companies can embrace; today, more than ever, our businesses face a simple choice: innovation or obsolescence.

Some companies offer us a template that can help us in terms of what works. Earlier this year, FAST COMPANY magazine compiled a list of the 50 most innovative companies in the world, looking at long-time innovators such as Apple, which has a history of reinventing itself, to brash new upstart businesses, such as Darkface, which is creating new ways of thinking to help remedy long-existing problems.

Paper planes

Re-thinking a challenge

Darkface offers what it calls the Enterprise Immune System - a program that addresses computer viruses in a way that mimics the human body’s response to their biological counterparts. Basically, the EIS is embedded in a computer network, so that it can familiarize itself with the normal behaviors and demands associated with that particular system. As a result, it can quickly identify anomalies and protect a company’s network. Customers have been impressed with the results, to the tune of approximately $300 million in contracts.

Innovation does not have to be restricted to solving 21st century woes, however. Anyone who has struggled to find the right “look” knows how difficult it can be to buy clothes. That’s where Stitch Fix comes in. A highly successful e-commerce subscription company, Stitch Fix employs a complex algorithm as well as 3,400 stylists to develop personalized clothing, shoe, and accessory solutions, which are boxed up and mailed to users. Imagine the personalization of a high-end store like Nordstrom’s combined with the speed and efficiency of Amazon. If you can’t, you could try asking any one of the company’s 2.2 million members.

If your company is not looking for new ways to get in front of new audiences, be afraid for its longevity.

– Sam Page, Forbes Magazine

Learning for the future

What do these success stories have in common? Several things. First, in each case, someone saw a potential niche market waiting to be uncovered. Then, rather than trying to use a variation of an old approach, they looked at the challenge from a different perspective, understanding that it sometimes takes a new vision to make the most of an old opportunity.

These enterprises hold a lesson for all of us, regardless of whether our business involves fashion or film: the companies that will survive and thrive are the ones that are not afraid to adapt. Forbes Magazine columnist Sam Page noted this when he said, “If your company is not looking for new ways to get in front of new audiences, be afraid for its longevity…Ultimately, being more prepared for faster and faster change is necessary for entrepreneurs and managers. If you're not learning, you're losing.”

Obviously, hard work and dedication will always remain bedrock principles of any successful company, but these alone are no longer a guarantee of success. Today, we must be willing and able to make quick adjustments based on changing conditions in the marketplace and prepare ourselves for opportunities that may right now only be on the drawing board.