One of the year-end articles I read was about Japan being overtaken by China as the No. 2 economy. The article really hit home with me because I wonder if there will ever come a time when the United States will have to face the same reality.
It seems to me that the only way the U.S. will not face the same fate is to become fanatical about innovation. A couple of major companies have already recognized the importance innovation has on their future.
At the Proctor & Gamble annual meeting, President and CEO Bob McDonald announced that sales grew 3%, market share grew in 14 of the company’s top 17 countries and P&G now serves over 4.2 billion customers. McDonald attributed the company’s performance on innovation:
“Innovation that truly improves people’s lives is more important than ever because many of the economies in which we operate are still recovering from the recession.”
Ford Motor Company’s CIO Nick Smither was quoted in Information Week as saying long-term thinking is essential. “We need to make sure we are sustaining the levels of innovation through a tough economic cycle.” Ford has seen 21% growth in U.S. sales compared to 2009.
Let’s face it…making innovation a priority won’t be easy. The Harvard Business Review alludes to this in their article titled, “Three Year-end Innovation Takeaways from Asia“. One of their points: the West is overly discounting Asia’s growth potential.
But, what really attracted me to the HBR article was what they called “the first mile problem.” The concept being that many people and businesses miss out on opportunities because the biggest challenge is the start-up (aka “the first mile”). It reminded me of conversations I’ve had many times throughout my career about individuals who have been tremendously loyal to the company and senior leadership felt obligated to them even though those same leaders knew the individual was not the right person to take the company to the next level.
IMHO, this will be a big dilemma for businesses as the economy begins to heat up. Organizations have to find a way to remain innovative. This involves the old Jim Collins Good to Great saying of getting the right people on the bus. In the right seats. At the right time. And businesses need to be prepared to make tough decisions if they have the wrong people in the wrong seats.
But before any company starts making decisions about their people, ask a few questions:
Is the company committed to innovation?
Are resources being allocated to support innovation?
Where does the company need to focus their innovation efforts?
What skills are needed to support the company innovation strategy?
Does the company have the talent in place to execute the innovation strategy?
If not, can we hire and train for it?
There’s a huge difference in the skill set needed to maintain the company versus taking the company to the next level. The questions every company should ask themselves is “What skills do we have versus what do we need?” and determine the best way to acquire those skills whether it’s via hiring or training.
Image courtesy of Planning for Fun