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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.

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Today, the choices available to us in all aspects of life continue to expand—creating stress, confusion and uncertainty. We have transitioned from massification—one size fits all—to what experts today call demassification, also known as mass customization. Ketchup is ketchup right? Why do we need different flavors and spices? Where and how products and services are available is all part of the element of space. Technology is great when it works but it can be a real pain when it doesn’t—and finding a fix might be even more frustrating. These expanding choices and their resulting stresses are no longer limited to our own space but have been exported to developing countries.

Lastly, knowledge is rapidly becoming the wild card of future success and innovation. Look at what’s been going on in China, India, Brazil and Russia. China’s strategy has been to leverage its 1.3 billion people into the dominant global production workforce, while the government in India has pushed higher education and has grown world-class services and technology sectors. An innovation strategy in a new global environment suits them well.

It can be argued that innovation is the result of creating an environment and a culture that encourages risk taking and exploration. It comes from organizations that promote critical thinking and challenge traditional theory and practice. Innovation may come from all levels of an enterprise when marketplace priorities have been clearly articulated. Innovation is the result of human engagement; therefore, if one does not create an organizational culture that promotes human engagement, innovation can be stymied. Some organizations condition employees to keep their good ideas to themselves. The key for any organization is to understand innovation as a competitive advantage, create a supportive culture and to pay for people’s minds rather than their time.

The beauty and personal care markets are not exempt from the eight angles of innovation but rather fully engaged with new product developments, new business models, new distribution models, new channel partnerships, new business processes and new brand experiences. While the challenges are many and competition is fierce, innovation may very well be one of our competitive solutions. Innovate to compete and succeed.