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The Innovation Marathon

By: Michael Wynne
Posted: December 5, 2006, from the December 2006 issue of GCI Magazine.

page 3 of 3

Make your effort disciplined and consistent. You don’t just wake up and decide you are going to run a marathon that day. You start out running short distances, gradually increasing your mileage. Innovation is a continued effort as well. Progress may be in spurts but the effort isn’t. Expect short-term failures. In research and development of any type, there will be failures. The key is to learn from them and keep moving.

Set reasonable goals. Beginning runners don’t expect to win their first marathon, but they can plan to finish within a certain time frame. Innovation involves entering new territory where progress is achieved by reaching milestones along the way. A good innovation within a reasonable timeframe is better than the perfect innovation too late—remember, time is of the essence.

Innovation is not unique to the U.S. market. You can count on all your competitors around the world striving to come up with innovations of their own. In a marathon race, different competitors set different paces according to their physical capabilities and their experience. In a global innovation marathon, if you only look at competitors in your domestic market you will most likely underestimate the pace of your foreign competition.

Don’t limit your observation and learning to just the U.S. market. Make it a practice to get out as often as you can to visit foreign markets. In conducting global market research, chances are you’ll discover possibilities for new and current product lines.