Digital Strategy: 90% of Innovation is Simply Adapting What Works

Sometimes innovation is using what's already there

Companies who embrace continued innovation as a part of their corporate strategy inevitably will feel the pressure to continually create ideas that no other organization has created. Why not just use what works?
    
This causes too much unnecessary pressure. Few companies find themselves in a position to devote time, resources and money to the kind of effort that would produce something ground breaking. Further, most new ideas fail. The companies that decide to embark on journeys into the unknown typically expect that many of the most promising initiatives just won’t work out.

So what can you do?

It it likely that some area of your organization is wildly behind the curve on the latest technology and/or management concepts. Wouldn’t you benefit from simply taking what works for others in the market and making it your own? 

Think about how many times you’ve heard that some new company is “the Uber” of whatever industry they are in. Uber’s success so far (putting aside what we now know about how they run their business and how they treat their employees and customers ...) has been due to its revolutionary idea to disrupt an industry by taking advantage of unused inventory in another sector. Uber recharacterized the number of empty cars driving around cities as available transportation inventory and, in what seemed like a heartbeat, flipped that industry on its head. 

Others have taken that idea and applied it to their businesses in other markets. Take Airbnb for example. They took the Uber inventory idea and applied it to unused rentable spaces. Is Airbnb a copycat? Not really. They are just applying what worked for Uber in another industry. 

How different is Lyft? Not much, but is that bad? 

Lyft has been successful taking what worked for Uber and trying to make it better and different. Are there people who are loyal to each brand? Of course. There’s nothing wrong with being number 2. 

How to look for innovation opportunities right under your nose

Looking to relieve innovation pressure? Start with the part of your organization that is the most inefficient, the most behind. Take a look at what that job function is trying to accomplish and look at others in your sector (as Lyft did) and try to adapt it to what you are doing and make it your own. It likely won’t work if you try to simply copy and paste the idea into your company, so look at how you can tailor it. Or maybe you can look at other industries (as Airbnb did) and find something there that, when you hold it up to the light as give it a turn, allows you to solve an analogous problem in your own business. 

Michael LaVista is the Founder / CEO of Caxy, a technology innovation company based in Chicago.