Can an Organization Survive Without Innovation in this Evolving World?

Last month Business Week listed the World’s Most Innovative Companies.

The subtitle;

Smart ideas for tough times: The 50 companies that make up our annual ranking nurture cultures that value creative people in good times and bad

According to the article, one of the first budget cuts in what seems to be an impending recession is going to be in R&D and Innovation. Will companies take the stance that they should stick with the “status quo” during these times? Will they cut cost by cutting services and personnel that seem to be too cutting edge to manage?

I can certainly understand the logic behind such choices. As someone who has been advocating change within my client’s organizations, I have found that change and innovation is a lot of work. It takes a commitment from the leadership, committed advocates throughout the organization, organizational changes in ideology, the technical ability to collaborate across functions, and an acceptance to learn how to do things differently.

As the article points out, there seem to be two camps;

“One is saying times are tough, so it’s the most important time for us to innovate,” says Scott Anthony, president of Innosight, a consultancy founded by Harvard Business School professor and innovation guru Clayton M. Christensen. “The other is saying ‘we simply don’t have the ability to think about innovation right now.’ There’s a real separation between the innovation haves and have-nots.”

The article also points out that “Low-cost methods for creating new products are easier than ever as emerging markets provide both cheap labor and booming pockets for growth.”

Your competition, both direct and indirect, including the 16-year-old playing on the computer right now, will identify opportunities that you may miss.

This is the time when information about the emerging landscape becomes critical for the survival of the fittest in hard economic times. This is where knowing how to change and where to change needs to be real-time information.

The changes in the world of business and commerce have continued to accelerate over the years. The main changes we have seen is the ability for those who are creative, driven, and a bit of a risk taker to find themselves standing at the top amongst the rubble of outdated companies.

There is a saying I have heard numerous times in competitive sales environments, “do not rest on laurels.” Meaning, do not remain so satisfied with your achievements that you make no effort to improve.

Resting on your laurels seems like a silly thing to do when economic times get tough and the competition will start to get more resourceful. It seems to me, as tough as change might be, it is needed most during times like these.

As we move through the tough times and the innovative ways companies will find to get through, we will also see the large Dinosaurs of the business world divided into piles of fossils and the corporate Dodo birds falling prey to the changing landscape.

Those who will survive and thrive will be those who can most quickly adapt to the changes in their environment by staying in-tuned with the changes that are occurring, continuously listening to their troops, and leading an organization through the dense forest and rapid waters that are ahead.