Driving the Innovation Economy

By Mark E. Atkins  |  Posted 2009-03-31 Print this article Print

Though the debate about the United States and its competitive edge continues, it’s now time to turn that talk into action. Driving an innovation economy depends on a number of factors, including education, R&D, green investment and tax incentives, which can empower businesses to deliver innovative, eco-friendly products consistently and profitably. Companies also have to harness the talent and creativity of their most important asset: their people.

Based on conversations with business leaders and customers around the world, I’ve put together five priorities for making our future sustainable.

1. Stay the innovation course. It is much easier to justify investments in innovation during boom times than when the going gets tough. However, savvy executives know that funding innovation in a faltering economy allows them to remain competitive during difficult times and pushes them significantly ahead when the economy improves.

According to a Forrester report, 93 percent of senior business executives surveyed cited innovation as a top strategic priority. To stay ahead of constant change, CEOs are clamoring for continuous, not ad hoc, innovation.

An Aberdeen Group study found best-in-class companies are 36 percent more likely to implement a predictable, repeatable innovation process than are average companies.

One of our nation’s top challenges is building the innovation momentum so that “just average” evolves into “just the best.” The goals of driving profitable growth and reducing costs are often the impetus behind innovation. Companies need to be aggressive about innovation throughout the economic cycle and have confidence that every product they re-engineer or bring to the market will be done right the first time. With the right technology, companies have made innovation a repeatable, sustainable process.

2. Continue on the path of green innovation. If innovation is the heart of product development and corporate growth, then sustainability is the aorta. The green movement has evolved from marketing hype to business reality. Companies are looking to “operationalize” green initiatives across the enterprise, creating and redesigning sustainable products that foster the planet’s welfare and drive revenue.

In reality, only a handful of organizations have been successful in making green approaches operational. Going green needs to be a business imperative with an impact on the bottom line.

For example, Atlanta-based Interface, a $1.1 billion global manufacturer of commercial carpets, doubled its core business through sustainable innovation and increased NASDAQ valuation of the company by five times. Now that’s green!

Mark E. Atkins is a freelance writer for Baseline Magazine.

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