Just this past June, I took
a day trip through Palo Alto in California from my home in Monterey, traveling
up the scenic Pacific Coast Highway. While driving through the beautiful
Stanford campus, ending up on Palo Road, I ran into the Stanford Shopping
Center. Never one to bypass a shopping mall, I decided to stop to see what this
city, which some term as the heart of Silicon Valley, had to offer. Within a
few minutes, I walked by the Apple, Microsoft and Sony stores, all within feet
of each other and eerily with incredibly similar setup. Stark, simplistic floor
design, concierge-like stations housed at the back of the store and, of course,
prominent product display tabletops.
Apple, now famously known
for their almost obsessive focus on the design and ascetic of their brand, from
their products to even their stores, has triumphed in their innovative strategy
to translate their corporate culture and ideals to living, breathing life. In
their wake, many other companies try to capture this "lightening in a bottle," most
unsuccessfully or as a poor imitation. As many companies have learned, taking
another's innovation as your own is often awkward, rarely resulting in success
rates of that of the originator. Failing strategies, such as these, occur
because senior executives do not account for their own unique corporate
culture, goals and people, believing the idea of innovation itself will be
enough to produce transformational change.
So, why then is it so difficult for
companies to create true, original innovation. Ron Johnson, who Steve
Jobs tapped to build the Apple retail stores, explains, "Innovation is this
amazing intersection between someone's imagination and the reality in which
they live. The problem is many companies don't have great imagination, but
their view of reality tells them that it's impossible to do what they imagine."
This search for a defining
innovation, or world-altering product, can become the Holy Grail for businesses
today, distracting executives from the core role of innovation itself. In a
recent Harvard Business Review blog
post, Bill Taylor, who is the co-founder of Fast
Company magazine, suggests, "Maybe it's time we all stopped
"innovating" and set our sights on something more meaningful and
real." Mr. Taylor reminds us that those innovators that we are all trying to
emulate didn't set out to be innovative but to do something new and fun. In the
race towards innovation, we forget to put ourselves, our organization and our
goals and desires into the equation.
Simply ask yourself these
basic questions repeatedly, "How can I better serve my customers? How can I
align my individual strategy to meet these goals? How can I measure the success
of my strategy against my original goals?" From there, innovation will
naturally spring forth, and you will become the enviable model other companies
try to duplicate.
As you read the strategies
in this issue of DOCUMENT, don't forget to consider what your ultimate goal is,
how these ideas will fit into your own strategy and the people who will enact
Until next time,
ALLISON LLOYD is the editor of DOCUMENT, the dedicated document management portal for executives, directors and managers involved with the management, strategy, creation and delivery of communications in B2C environments. She leads the editorial direction for all DOCUMENT Media outlets, including its magazine, website, newsletter and event. Ms. Lloyd is a thought leader and expert in the transactional and customer communications industry.