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Practice Makes Perfect Introducing the top innovators of...1989. As you would imagine, they've done a lot more innovating in the meantime.

By Katherine Catlin

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In today's turbulent world, your competitive edge depends on your ability to innovate. With rapidly changing markets, values, behaviors and ways of doing business, you must respond creatively to be profitable. Those who don't lead with innovation lose the competitive battle.

In 1989, I interviewed the CEOs of six companies that had just won awards from the Smaller Business Association of New England (SBANE) for "outstanding success in developing an innovative idea, method or device, with a proven correlation between its innovative qualities and its performance." Having started a consulting practice focused on planning and managing rapid growth, I wanted to explore how dedication to innovation supports successful growth.

I recently went back to talk to three of the companies to find out whether they had sustained their innovative edge over the intervening years, a volatile period in which most businesses experienced numerous economic, technological and competitive twists and turns. I also wanted to know whether their innovative capabilities were still driving growth.

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