Turf Magazine - February, 2012

DEPARTMENTS

Unfinished Business: Don't Get Left Behind

By Nicole Wisniewski

Three out of four businesses on Standard & Poor's 500 list will be gone by 2020. That's 375 businesses that will vanish through mergers, bankruptcies or acquisitions. This according to "Creative Destruction: Why Companies That Are Built to Last Underperform the Market - And How to Successfully Transform Them" by Sarah Kaplan and Richard Foster.

Why will these companies fail? "Because they do not adapt to change, to accelerating change, which will render their products and services obsolete," according to "Innovate (or Die): How Green Industry Companies Will Thrive in the New Economy," the Professional Landcare Network's 30th Crystal Ball Report.

Says the report: "The truth is our economy is not recovering so much as reinventing itself. We are all experiencing increasing competition and profit margins that are under pressure, and having to deal with competitors introducing new services that we wish we had thought of. We have entered a period of significant economic change. Companies that learn to innovate and to view, analyze and continuously adapt to change will be able to grow in the new economy. Those that continue with 'business as usual' are doomed."

The problem some businesses have, particularly service businesses like those in the green industry, is they can't see how they can innovate when they aren't inventing new products. Another challenge is that when budgets are tight, companies tend to cut innovative measures to save money.

On the social media website LinkedIn, I belong to a group called Future Trends with 104,570 other professionals. The group has regular, lively discussions about business, the economy, branding and innovation.

Recently, one professional asked group members to share their definitions of innovation. More than 100 responses came in.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • Innovation is the answer to the question you didn't think to ask.
  • Innovation is the need to look for new answers to old questions.
  • Innovation is looking into the forest instead of following the old path.
  • Innovation is thinking differently, acting different, delivering differently, and adding value differently from the status quo.
  • Innovation requires thinking beyond, as opposed to outside, the box, and altering the frame of reference to create previously unconsidered solutions.
  • Innovation is about having conversations that create something new, and being prepared to change what you are doing; not just "falling in love" with your idea.
  • Innovation is finding a new way to address an old problem that adds value in any form (time, financial, etc.).
  • Innovation is the ability to see opportunities where others do not and taking the risk to make it happen.
  • Innovation is bringing ideas from other industries or competitors into your business, and appearing innovative in your surroundings.
  • Innovation is often seen as a moment in time; the dawning of an idea or concept. But it's really the end to end - idea to execution - that encapsulates innovation.
  • Innovation is not about having mad creative brainstorms or spending huge sums on research and development. Innovation is the process of commercializing, not just coming up with ideas. The latter is actually in abundance. The entrepreneurial ability to deliver it is in short supply.
  • Innovation means improving products or services as an answer to market trends and needs. Those who have passion throughout the process and involve their staff are more likely to be innovative.
  • Innovation is only successful when you have an inventor, a realizer and many users.
  • Innovation is hitting the reset button and taking a new approach; works every time.
  • Innovation is something original that determines progress in society and improves our quality of life.
  • Innovation is creating, and creating is shortening the synapse between what is and what could be.

These opinions are all different, yet they have common strings that tie them together. It's clear these professionals from various business backgrounds and experience levels all feel innovation begins as a thought process.

And, as Crystal Ball Report #30, adds: "Meaningful progress can be made when leaders adopt the mindset that their organizations must and will innovate."

The S&P 500 prediction and this candid innovation discussion confirm that businesses must adapt and evolve to remain successful. And on that path toward adaptation and evolution is innovation. And what business wouldn't want to innovate? After all, at its very core, as one Future Trends group member simply states, "Innovation is a passion to improve."

Nicole Wisniewski is a 15-year green industry veteran and award-winning journalism and marketing professional. She's a senior project manager in The Davey Tree Expert Co.'s marketing/corporate communications department. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mybig greenpen or reach her at nwisniewski@neo.rr.com.