Is Innovation the key to success?


History has witnessed companies, which were once at the pinnacle but later doomed to death just because of ‘dearth of innovation’.

As per the Oxford dictionary, ‘innovation’ means-

• the action or process of innovating: innovation is crucial to the continuing success of any organisation

• [count noun] a new method, idea, product, etc.: technological innovations designed to save energy

In today’s world, where technology and demands are changing rapidly, innovation is an ‘integral key for survival’ in any industry. The rapid changes in technology and business processes have made innovation a necessity, than merely a requirement. The system, which is working absolutely fine today can be an obsolete one tomorrow. It is a challenge for all the companies to fulfill the demands of the customers. This compels organisations to maintain an unwavering commitment to deliver new and better solutions, which directly address customers. If they fail, it leads to the sweet death of the organisation.

History has witnessed companies, which were once at the pinnacle but later doomed to death just because of ‘dearth of innovation’.

If I were to ask, what is the revolutionary product invented by SONY? We may answer in unison—Sony Walkman series. Right? It was introduced in 1979 and for several decades it was the king of the music industry. It indeed was a ground-breaking product by Sony, and enjoyed the monopoly for quite a long time creating a brand in itself. Before the invention of the walkman, people never imagined that music could be listened to while walking. So, in the real sense it was walking while listening! Then what happened?? Why do we not use the Walkman Series today?

SONY was innovative enough to understand that the Walkman was the need of the hour. But, after the launch, it stopped thinking about the future, became dormant and stuck to only one product. Just as in the jungle where there are always hyenas to snatch your prey, this opportunity was grabbed by a far-sighted company called Apple with late Steve Jobs visualising the importance of touch-screen music and shuffle audio. Without much ado, Apple introduced its revolutionary product called the i-Pod with shuffle option. It came, it conquered and the rest is history. Apple revived from a bankrupt company to a $520 Billion American company! There is only one crucial element in the entire journey of Apple’s success and the sad demise of the Walkman—the importance of innovation and always trying for new things, which cater to the customers’ needs!

As per Fortune magazine, 65 US companies drop out of Fortune 500 in a decade!

We all are aware of the success stories of companies, such as General Motors, Ford Motors, Blackberry, Nokia, Motorola, Kodak and the list goes on. All these companies once enjoyed being at the top but today are in doldrums!

The successful companies of today have realised that innovation should be a mainstream activity, and have therefore incorporated it in their day-to-day activities. Organisations are not leaving any stone unturned to assimilate innovation with their processes and technologies.

But who is responsible for initiating innovation in a company? Should it be top to bottom or vice versa? Should it only be a part of board room discussions or go beyond that?

Top innovative companies believe that innovation is not a one-time process unlike training or recruitment. It is a slow and steady process, which should be amalgamated into the culture of the company (just like milk and sugar). Innovation in any company should percolate from the top to the bottom and should not remain stuck only in board room discussions. Top management in every organisation must understand the importance of innovation for survival in the industry, and should act as role models for the organisation as a whole.

Companies should follow certain steps in order to embrace innovation in the organisation-

1.Don’t be afraid of failure For an organisation to acknowledge innovation, it is very important to welcome new ideas (however absurd and out-of-the-box they are) and suggestions. Ideas seldom emerge from a vacuum or a well-structured meeting place. So, for a proper blend of creative ideas and suggestions there should be an environment of free culture around, where employees are not afraid of failure.

3M is one of the most innovative companies in the world and it follows a policy wherein employees spend 15 per cent of their work-time in some personal innovative projects.

(We all use the post-it almost daily at the work place, but very few are aware that it was invented by a 3M finance professional in 15% of his work time! Strange, isn’t it?)

2.Create small groupsOrganisations should create small groups, which can work on innovative projects and benchmark different innovations around. There should be a proper platform for the groups to share the ideas and take them forward.

3.Acknowledge success It is very important for any organisation to acknowledge innovation and reward/ recognise employees at the right time and place. The simple, proverbial pat-on-the-back or verbal recommendation can often have immeasurable results.

4.Do not be overconfident In order to stay alive in the business, it is very important to stay updated about the recent happenings around. The monopoly you are enjoying today may actually become a thorn in your neck tomorrow, just because while enjoying the monopoly you underestimated the changes happening around (Remember the Sony Walkman series story explain earlier!)

5.Embrace IT and recent technologies In today’s highly unpredictable business world, it is mandatory for companies to utilise the maximum capacity of recent technologies and processes. If left behind, the result can be the same as that of Nokia and Blackberry.

(Remember, business is like a wide ocean and there are always some big fish waiting to eat up the small ones in a gulp!)

(The author is HR Manager, Network 18)


  1. Very nicely conveyed the topic. Easy language and strong message! I’ve read your older articles as well. Keep up the good work! We enjoy reading your work ?

  2. Dear Vivek

    Very thoughtful…. as it said if you don’t change,change will change you… one needs to shift paradigm periodically and beautiful articulated by you
    God bless looking for many more insightful write ups from you

  3. Creativity quotient need to be part of talent selection and psychometrics.

    When each employee is creative-innovative-aptitude for creative problem solving, design, systems, inter-personal relations, etc etc the organisation will be creative, not leaving it to few thought leaders, making job design more self-fulfilling and rewarding, while enchancing learning aptitude too.

    Can implement Quality Circles, Juran Groups for Senior Managers, Kaizen, Suggestions Schemes, etc
    while Innovation could consciously form part of the PMS for additional recognition and rewards, apart from regular performance of duties and responsibilities in self-awareness.

    Training in systematic creative and strategic problem solving and decision making techniques for business results need be imparted at leadership and supervisory levels and skilled technicians.

    Creativity be celebrated every day with chocolates and badges, both by individuals and teams.

    Individual contributors may not be effective at times in teams, losing their identity and not able to perform.

    Being over-creative too may hamper the regular flow of work and production, spending too much time thinking, experimenting and debating competitively, needing approvals, etc

    The right mix and mechanisms be created in the eco-system based on organisational strategic need, while learning to be receptive and not discouraging project proposals and thought processes.

    best regards,

    hr consultant and leadership coach

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