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Innovate or die: it’s the slogan of successful business

I was asked to comment on a major innovation report in the Republic recently.

The report was attempting to change the innovation culture in the Irish economy.

It got me thinking about innovation (or lack of), which has been a bugbear for me for quite a while.

I know from my work with universities across the island how much fantastic research is going on. I just don’t see much evidence of that research being used by indigenous companies as an opportunity to expand and develop their business.

Innovation is not a company function within most organisation charts and does not appear to be high on the agenda of SMEs.

Why is that? Is it culture? Is it capability? Is it funding? Is it time?

There is no doubt that innovation is a key driver for success. If you are in doubt, I suggest you read books such as Funky Business, Free or Break from the Pack, which highlight commoditisation of everything as one of the biggest threats to business.

Everything is copied immediately. This means you need to be different on an ongoing basis.

Seth Godin in his latest book Linchpin (highly recommended) asks whether you or your business is indispensable. Are you?

I think that one of the problems is the word ‘innovation’ itself. It appears to be associated with R&D (as I did in the second paragraph). That is only a tiny bit of the innovation spectrum.

Peter Robbins, who was the global innovation director of Glaxosmithkline, explains on one of the videos we have featured on smallbusinesscan, that it is about small, incremental changes, NOT about looking for the big bang.

So here are a few questions for you:

When was the last time you did a brainstorm with your staff and/or clients?

When was your last change in product, service, business model or business process?

What percentage of sales is with a new product or service?

How many ideas do you have in portfolio?

When is the last time you visited a university?

Who is responsible for innovation in your company?

I take a bet that the reason why it is not high on the agenda for business is time and culture and not capability (it is not rocket science) or funding.

That, in my opinion, is business suicide. Make the time, create the culture or your business will be out of business.

Anyone interested in posting comments about or asking questions of the entrepreneurs profiled this week or in previous weeks can do so at www.smallbusinesscan.com