How Successful Companies Sustain Innovation

Innovation is widely regarded as the single most important ingredient in today’s economy. But innovation as a destination isn’t enough.


Sustained innovation is a high-productivity state in which an organization strives to innovate in all aspects of its business, including management, divisions, operations, customers, and suppliers. It requires a seamless, structured management approach that begins with board- and CEO-level leadership and connects all the way through technology investment and implementation. Above all, sustained innovation is a journey, not a destination. The enterprise doesn’t stop innovating after attaining one goal; it’s engaged in a continual process of reinvention, invention, and discovery.

Consider the following three examples:

The one-hit wonder: The smartphone market is red-hot, with Apple and Samsung engaged in the most fierce race for dominance via product innovation. But let’s not forget the once ubiquitous handheld of choice for most employers and business people: the BlackBerry. A mere five years ago, Research In Motion was one of the most celebrated technology companies in the world, as the BlackBerry, or “CrackBerry” as it became known, led the smartphone market. But the meteoric rise of the iPhone and Android devices has made R.I.M. and its big innovation a relic in a world of constant reinvention.

Rising from failure: In 1919, Cornelius Vander Starr was the first Westerner to sell insurance to the Chinese, and he did so successfully until Communism drove him and American International Group back to the U.S. in 1949. AIG quickly grew it business globally, and in 1962 Starr gave management of the company’s slowing U.S. holdings to Maurice R. “Hank” Greenberg, who revitalized the company by moving from personal insurance to high-margin corporate coverage and selling through independent brokers rather than agents to slash those salaries. The company went public in 1969 and continued to thrive until 2005, when AIG became the high-profile subject of fraud investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission, U.S. Justice Department, and New York State Attorney General’s Office. Greenberg was booted amid an accounting scandal in February 2005 and the company was battered by a liquidity crisis when its credit ratings were downgraded below “AA” levels in September 2008. Thanks to government bailouts in 2008 and 2009, AIG has bounced back and regained its status as a vital American multinational corporate titan. AIG isn’t taking its rescue for granted. The insurer unveiled a new corporate logo as part of a major rebranding overhaul aimed at its continued growth and success.

Read the full article @FastCompany.

[Image: Flickr user Defence Images]

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