Innovation statistics

May 30th, 2010

As those of you know who follow my blog posts, articles and quotes, I believe the U.S. must innovate or die – the topic of my recent newsletter article (To read the entire article, click here).

Today I read about a recent study of patents. In 2009, U.S. firms received patents for slightly less than half (49%) of all U.S. utility patents issued. Of course it is important to consider the quality in addition to the number but these numbers are concerning, especially as innovation is at the crux of our history – and our future ability to succeed.

The good news is that IBM maintained its number one position (which has a 17 year streak) with 4,914 patents. Go IBM!

Building an Innovation Culture – What Is Vital?

May 24th, 2010

There’s one word – leadership!

A recent Industry Week article showed several examples of innovation success – the key is that executives must be committed, patient and ready to lead by example. Doesn’t this sound like something we should do anyway? Absolutely! I think it is amazing how often the best client results come from the simple, straightforward projects – the difference is not in some sort of groundbreaking idea but in the FOCUS and COMMITMENT on achieving the result. Then, innovation naturally emerges.

Doesn’t this sound easy? Yep – but it’s not. When an R&D project begins to require more resources, time and/or money than expected, it is quite natural for the plug to be pulled. However, this is exactly why executive focus and commitment are vital. Then they’ll stay the course in order to achieve the end objective. Of course I’m not advocating staying the course in an obviously bad situation. Leadership is about not only knowing when to stay the course but it also about knowing when to stop, even if it was your idea.

I recently wrote a newsletter feature article on innovation. There are several ideas about how to build an innovation culture: click here.

I have NO doubt that those individuals and companies who pursue innovation will achieve significantly greater results than those who don’t.

Is it more successful to focus on the perfect product or your customers?

May 16th, 2010

I recently read a Harvard Business Review article about reinventing marketing, and I found it quite interesting (especially as it coincides with what I believe!). According to the article, to complete successfully in today’s business environment, companies must shift from pushing individual products to building long-term customer relationships.

In essence, this turns traditional marketing on its head as product and brand managers become subservient to customer managers. It also suggests that customer-focused functions including R&D, customer service, market research and CRM should be viewed as part of the “customer department”. I am not sure if I would have seen the genius of this in my prior work life; however, in working with many companies to accelerate performance (which often leads back to customers as #1) and in managing my consulting practice, I see the value of looking at these elements through the customer viewpoint. After all, creating products and hoping they satisfy customer needs is pointless. It must start in reverse.

I also recently wrote an article about how to thrive in the “new normal” business environment which was published by Industry Week. Customer service is one of the top 3 keys to success. Read the article in full: click here.

Inflation or Deflation? ……….Why Does it Matter?

May 10th, 2010

Most economists and media are concerned about inflation. For example, a new McKinsey & Co study offers up inflation as a fresh concern. And the media talks quite a lot about the printing of money in Washington – and how that could easily lead to inflation. In my opinion, although I can see inflation in certain commodity pricing (especially while China spends heavily on infrastructure etc), deflation is the bigger concern. In essence, I agree with Chris Varvares, President of Macroeconomic Advisors who said, “The consensus forecasts from both the National Association of Business Economists and the Blue Chip Economic Indicators expect inflation to be below 2% in both 2010 and 2011. At this point, there’s a greater risk of deflation than there is of 10% inflation.”

Why? There is massive debt and deleveraging that is still required to get back to a normal environment. Banks are not lending like they used to (please note that I do not support the old policies). Baby boomers are beginning to retire and spend less than when they were in full family mode. So, how will inflation occur (prices increase) without increased demand (and increased consumers)?
With that said, unfortunately, I wouldn’t doubt that there will be bouts of inflation mixed in with deflation, although deflation will have the upper hand.

So, why does it matter? Because it is vital to be prepared for what’s coming in the future. Those businesses who are prepared and ready to leverage opportunities will be those who succeed during this “new normal” timeframe. I wrote an article for Industry Week on how to thrive in the “new normal”. The keys are as follows: 1) Manage cash with vigor (which directly ties to the inflation/ deflation debate). 2) Stand out in the crowd with service. 3) Execute, execute, and execute. To read the full article: click here.

I.T. Vital to the “New Normal” but Understaffed

May 1st, 2010

I recently read an article in Industry Week that shows what I’ve seen to be true in my client engagements – leveraging business systems is key to succeeding in 2010’s “new normal”. Therefore, I.T. is vital to the post recession recovery because I.T. must partner with the business segments to leverage the business systems to deliver bottom line business results. Unfortunately, I.T. is understaffed and often underappreciated. According to Robert Half, 43% of around 1400 CIO’s believe their departments are deeply or somewhat understaffed for handling their current workloads. Yet Gartner says 62% of 190 senior business executives say I.T. will e a “key element” in their companies’ post-recession recovery.

I was recently quoted in an Industry Week article about leveraging business systems, as I have seen many, many examples of companies deliver significant profitibility and cash flow results solely through leveraging business systems in combination with business processes. As it costs almost nothing (except valuing your I.T. and business process folks!), who wouldn’t want to free up millions of dollars of cash or save 5% in cost in a key area? To read the full article to provide ideas on this topic: click here.