Who says innovation has to be difficult? While game-changing breakthrough technologies and new scientific discoveries tend to hog media headlines, it bears remembering: Evolutionary changes (slight shifts in business strategy or thinking) can often be every bit as powerful as revolutionary advancements. All too often, at the pace today's market moves, and scale on which market leaders operate, we often forget -- all it frequently takes to get ahead is just a minor shift in tactics or perspective. For example:
When L&T General Insurance -- a full-service health, property, and casualty insurance provider - wanted to find a way to serve the hugely-diverse and hugely-scattered Indian market? Instead of applying a Western business model and attempting to install branches in every remote town and village and hoping customers would come to it, the company took a contrarian approach. Rather than leverage traditional market strategies, it flipped them on their heads, equipping insurance agents with smartphones and tablets on which a suite of online, cloud-based apps capable of issuing policies and processing claims on the spot was pre-installed, so that agents could go to customers instead.
When medical device leader Medtronic wanted to expand its already successful business throughout Western Europe and beyond? It didn't double-down on cutting-edge devices. It reinvented its business model instead, expanding its offerings to include services, and establishing new business units that partnered to put owned-and-operated labs inside hospitals.
Not only has Medtronic increased its business and provided partners with significant improvements in customer service and cost-savings by doing so. Having earned their trust, it's also built a sizable business around ancillary services such as supply chain management and performance benchmarking.
When French telecom giant Orange wanted to double the size of its innovation initiatives, but didn't want to invest millions in R&D or hordes of high-priced working professionals? It decided to outsource the entire process, and offered APIs -- plug-and-play back-end software solutions - both to internal employees and external developers so that they could create new uses for Orange's technologies. Using just one of these solutions, the company has been able to seamlessly integrate social and second-screen experiences from hundreds of film and TV companies into many of its services in under a year.
When Newell Rubbermaid's Contigo brand wanted to find a way to differentiate its products in the hugely-crowded and -contested market for portable containers and cups? It didn't invest a fortune into dozens of abortive product roll-outs, attempting to guess what working professionals on the go would want. It simply studied today's busiest travel sites, where commuters tended to congregate and -- after discovering that passengers were constantly wiping off their mugs' mouth guards on napkins, sleeves, and handkerchiefs - it introduced a new line of travel mugs with special covers designed to keep out dirt.
And when MasterCard needed a new idea for a mobile payment app? It simply put the call out to employees at Innovation Express, a global series of hackathon events where business people, designers, and software developers team up to create new business plans and products in record time. Two days later, Qkr -- which can let you order food from your seat at a stadium, or pre-order school lunches for children right from your pocket without ever setting foot in a cafeteria -- was born.
While it's not always obvious to the casual observer, innovation is far easier than you think. All it takes to successfully outmaneuver the competition, or overcome a problem, is simply a greater sense of perspective, and greater willingness to be more creative with how you apply the tools at-hand.