How to Recognize Business Inflection Points and Innovate to Survive Them
Every business will reach inflection points where change is inevitable. Failure to change at these points may cause your business to lose momentum and die. Although there is no "wrong" time to innovate, there are several critical points in the growth of your organization that demand innovative thinking.
Any viable business plan includes a system for regularly identifying, developing and protecting innovative ideas. But, there are times where your business needs an extra boost of innovation to break through an inflection point. Recognizing these inflection points and responding with innovation will accelerate business growth to a new level.
1. Expanding Into a new market.
When your business moves into a new market, it is up against other companies with an established customer base. To gain traction in the new market, you need to stand out from the competition. Study the market and existing products to pinpoint problems with those products or to identify unmet needs in the market. Use these problems or unmet needs as opportunities to innovate and develop products (or product features) that deliver a competitive edge. If you can burst into the new market with a fresh product and "must have" features, you can quickly establish your position as a market leader.
2. New product launch.
New products give your company a chance to increase revenue and reach more customers. When developing a new product, don't just bring in your existing development team. Involve people throughout the organization in the innovation process, such as employees in the sales, marketing and customer service departments. Including these members of your team provides a broader view of the industry and customer needs, which can generate more innovative and more applicable ideas. Use the new product launch as an opportunity to further distinguish your company and its products from competitors in the market. In my work as an innovation strategist, I have seen many cases where a single new product is responsible for the exponential growth of the company. So don't just create another "me too" product, launch something that will generate a powerful buzz in the industry.
3. Changes in your industry.
Changes in your industry and overall market trends require you to adapt your products to meet these changes and adjust your strategy to leverage the new market trends. Some changes occur quickly while others develop over time. For rapid industry changes, you need to swiftly develop creative ideas to modify existing products based on the changes. For slower changes, such as evolving market trends, focus your innovation activities on the new problems that will be created by the market trends. Identify innovative solutions to these problems so your company can be prepared with ready solutions to the problems when they arise. These solutions put you a step ahead of the competition because you anticipated the problems and solved them in advance.
4. New competitors entering your market.
A new kid on the block is the perfect catalyst to innovate features that can set your product apart from the new competition. If your business has been operating for a while, you already have an existing customer base. Leverage that advantage by obtaining feedback from your current customers to identify ways to improve your products. Examine problems routinely handled by your customer service department -- these problems represent opportunities to innovate. Use your existing position in the market to your advantage and find ways to distinguish your product offerings from the new competitors. It's important to act quickly to engage your innovation team and identify ways to preserve (and hopefully expand) your market share.
5. Seeking investment capital.
Many organizations seek to raise capital at various points during the growth of the company. Savvy investors evaluate a company's competitive position in their market and the protection of proprietary systems and procedures. But just as important to an investor is your proven ability to innovate. If your company is anticipating a need for a capital investment, consider boosting your innovation efforts to identify creative ideas that can make your products stand out from the competition. And, when you identify innovations that provide a strong competitive edge, secure an appropriate form of intellectual property protection to maintain your exclusive use of those innovations. These additional intellectual property assets can improve company valuation and the attractiveness of your company to investors.
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