Finding Genius in Innovation
Many companies struggle to translate creativity into profitable business ideas, particularly when their brands or products have been around for a while. The challenges of keeping up with a marketplace that continually expects new and different, not to mention competition from hungry start-ups , keeps many CEOs up at night.
Being a leading-edge company that meets these demands can be daunting, but the ability to rise to the challenge is much more attractive when put into perspective.
Invention Not Required: Invention vs. Innovation
Innovation is not the same as invention. Great inventors like Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk fall into the genius category. Their designs and visions created industries, disrupted markets and often filled needs consumers didn’t know they had.
Becoming the new “it” company doesn’t require invention when innovation is far more feasible. Companies that focus on identifying problems that need solving and developing unique solutions are finding tremendous success. Even more practical is taking a product designed to do one thing and building something else on top of it.
Consider these design innovations:
- Louboutin Nail Polish: French designer Christian Louboutin isn’t just the creator of red shoes favored by the retired Pope. Nail polish is his new fashion category. His polish is packaged in an 8-inch tall faceted glass bottle. Its towering tip will remind Louboutin aficionados of the spiked heel on his classic ballet flats. The bottle is designed to be a work of art, one that is too tall and too beautiful to hide away in a bathroom cabinet.The product hasn’t caused a frenzy in the nail care marketplace just because of its packaging. The polish inside is also an exceptional quality. Wearers swear that two coats last as long as 20 applications of ordinary polish. In the world of high fashion Louboutin nail polish shouts uniqueness and luxury.
- The Selfie Stick: Despite its obvious practicality, many of us have come to either love or loathe the Selfie Stick. It’s a terrific example of a simple, problem-solving innovation. The original was designed in the 1980s and called the “extender stick” by its Japanese inventor, Hiroshi Ueda. (Interestingly, Ueda was an employee of the camera company Minolta.) Ueda’s stick had a few problems though. Cameras common in those days didn’t easily accommodate the stick’s design, and picture quality was low. The product never caught on. In 2005, Canadian gadget inventor Wayne Fromm released his “Quik Pod”. The story goes that he got the idea for his extendable selfie stick from retractable umbrellas. After 10 years of late-night QVC-peddling, Fromm’s design became a hit. Sadly, Ueda’s patent ran out in 2003. To his credit, he doesn’t hold any ill-will. He admits the time just wasn’t right for his extender stick.
Innovation takes root when there’s balance between creativity and profit. Businesses can still be wildly successful by fulfilling a need, or creating one, for that matter. Leave inventing new industries to Elon Musk. The rest of us can focus on furthering innovation everywhere else.