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Refusing to Innovate: What's the Cost?

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Take a look at your career. Whether you're recently out of college or a seasoned veteran, it doesn't matter. Try recalling an instance at the company you work for now or at a previous company where innovation was happening. Can you think of one? If it takes you more than 30 seconds, the answer is probably no. Does that make you question their ability to create sustainable growth?

If you are inclined to think about innovation like me, have you ever thought about what the lost opportunity cost might be for your company if it didn't innovate? Let's look at it this way. If your company never thought about ways to be innovative with new ideas that are vastly different, creative, advanced, or whatever it is that creates separation from the competition, what will the customers think when they compare you to others? Hmm. Chew on that one for a while.

Innovation Example

I was in the market for a mountain bike and searched for just the right mix of features for my style of riding. Naturally, I reviewed lots of websites, photos, customer reviews and also saw new features that are innovative for certain models. I was amazed at how many manufacturers where touting exclusive this, or new that, or "Amazing shock technology only found on this model." Once I discovered which models where not offering the latest features, I moved on with my search. That's a lost opportunity and lost revenue for those not innovating. Ouch!

Here's a lesson for most companies. You can't refuse to innovate. Customers are very intelligent and have access to more information at their fingertips than ever before. Customers are comparing your brand and your offerings every day to your competition. If you don't rise to the top in their minds and provide new, innovative ways to solve their problem or give them a reason to purchase your product, the cost is pretty simple to understand. No innovation = reduced sales. This is a problem.

Unnovation vs. Innovation

In a recent article for The Huffington Post titled, Questions Surrounding Unnovation vs. Innovation, a few key points were noted. All of us need to understand these keys, especially in assessing the opportunity cost.

• Innovation is really unnovation that fails to create value
• Companies must kick the habit of unnovation
• Unnovation can be thought of as a refusal to create new ideas, adopt new ideas and
embrace them
• Lack of innovating or unnovating can be just plain stupid

Fueling Innovation

Innovation is not easy to create. If it was, just about everyone would be doing it. However, there are a few things your company can do to help point you in the right direction and give you a fighting chance. In this Huffington Post article called 5 Ways to Energize Your Brand and Fuel Innovation, I discuss a few ideas that will help energize your team and fuel innovation.

• Look for new ways to modify your existing business
• Find employees that are innovative
• Look into the future
• Prioritize your ideas
• Get your idea to market quickly

The Frustrating Side Of Innovation

One of the topics rarely talked about is when companies frustrate innovative employees. I know this probably sounds strange. Innovation is supposed to be all about new products, ideas, technology, breaking new ground and creating something never done before. That is the sexy side of innovation. There's also an ugly side. Author, speaker and LinkedIn influencer Gijs V alludes to this ugly side of innovation in his article that discusses When Companies Frustrate Innovative Employees.

Companies must realize that the most important asset they have are the employees. If that is not realized, there is a problem. But there is another problem. If you have highly innovative employees, they are the ones poking for new ideas, pushing creativity and technology, and really trying to add value with their entrepreneurial spirit. My suggestion is, don't stifle it. Embrace it, harness the intellectual capital you are getting from them and leverage it as much as possible. If you don't, you will lose them, and then what?

Does Innovation Have Support From Management?

Take a look at what this LinkedIn article has to say about innovation management and supporting employee's entrepreneurial ideas. It's eye opening to see that studies have shown companies may say all the right things when it comes to innovating, but in actuality, employees are stating that innovation is not as supported as people may think. Here are a few facts from the article.

• 49 percent of employees say management support is very important to the generation of
entrepreneurial ideas
• 42 percent of employees consider that failure tolerance in management is very important to the
employee
• Only 20 percent of employees believe their company delivers entrepreneurial support
• A miniscule 12.5 percent of employees think their company is good at tolerating failure

Credit: When Companies Frunesstrate Innovative Employees.

These are just a few of the facts revealing the lack of innovation at companies, and also the lack of management insight on understanding how to deal with it at the ground level. It certainly appears that companies may be risk-averse when it comes to innovation.

The Cost of Refusing to Innovate

It seems to me there is a significant cost both on the human capital side when companies lose innovative employees, and also with lost revenue because companies are sticking with the status quo instead of innovating. But there's more. The reality is, if you don't innovate, you unnovate. Olaf Swantee so eloquently states in his article Unnovation - The Biggest Threat To Business.

If unnovation ever made it into the Oxford English Dictionary, I believe the description would be something along the lines of "unnovation (noun)... the refusal to identify, create, embrace or adopt new ideas, leading to the unnecessary and un-timely end to a business, which is ultimately overtaken by external progress.

I guess that means by refusing to innovate the cost could be an un-timely end to your business. Ouch! Time to start innovating!