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In My Opinion: Innovation as a Competitive Advantage

By: Michael Overstreet
Posted: January 5, 2007, from the January 2007 issue of GCI Magazine.
It seems that you can’t pick up a business publication or read business news on the Internet today without virtually tripping over the word “innovation.” A parallel can be drawn between our current fascination with innovation and the allure of “quality” in decades past. But what is this thing called innovation and what are the challenges of a changing world that affect its process and implementation?

At its core, innovation is about the creation of something new. According to the Web site www.getfuturethink.com, there are eight basic angles to innovation including the development of new business model and brand experiences.

Businesses throughout time have innovated on some combination of these eight basic angles. Every day, beauty industry companies report the release of new products, the implementation of new business models, new strategic partnerships and so much more. The challenge for companies is to develop an innovation strategy that will allow them to compete and succeed in a constantly changing world.

Today, elements beyond our control are changing and creating change at warp speed. Harnessing the power of this rapid change is the first step in using innovation to our competitive advantage. In their book Revolutionary Wealth, Alvin and Heidi Toffler discuss at length what they call deep fundamentals—resources critical to the creation of wealth. The first such element is time. Technological innovations continue to compress time in both our professional and our personal lives. Be honest. Is your Blackberry, laptop or cell phone in your hand or within your reach as you read this? If so, you realize that our expectations relative to response time continue to be compressed. We are the want-it-now society, and this trend is going global. Further, technology puts on-demand access to real time information, technology and capital at our fingertips.

The second element is space. There was a time when we competed in our own communities for education, employment and capital. The same technologies that are compressing time also are compressing space, and we find ourselves competing well beyond our own communities in a truly global market.