Innovation in business is not about being first; it is about being best at commercializing an idea. Companies fixated on a goal of being first to market, often end up losing out to those who come next and use their innovation processes to make improvements and take a product (service, idea…) to the next level.

Here is how one company perfected the art of not being first.

During a study conducted on the impact of bureaucracy on innovation, many companies within one particular industry were interviewed.Two or three of the companies shone clearly as the industry leaders when it came to revenue, employees, and investment in research and development.

Company X was widely perceived, within the industry, as market leader; Company Y–a much smaller company–as innovation leader. The Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) of both companies were interviewed. Smaller Company Y’s CTO had a clear view on how innovation worked for his company.


They simply didn’t have the resources, he said, to invest the same effort on research and product development as the big players, but he knew (from experience) that the company was faster in implementing ideas they picked up elsewhere. So he put a team together that paid close attention to what they could find out about the competitor’s work (completely within the limits of the law).

They followed trade shows, press releases, and media coverage. They also spoke to buyers in the industry and tested competitor’s products. When they saw something they liked, they brought the idea back to the company, improved upon it as best they could and adapted it to fit their own product line. And although they never made the claim, to customers it looked as if this company was the one with the great ideas. They became innovation leaders without being first.

This is just one innovation example for business, illustrating that the greater success often comes to those that are not the first to market with their products. Rather, they are really good at what they do and they dominate because they are good – not because they were first.

Leaders of innovation in business, government, scientific research, healthcare, transportation, professional associations…any field…have this in common: they make sure that ideas brought in from the outside are treated with just as much importance as ideas that start on the inside.

Remember then, that innovation in business is not so much about being first, as it is about being the best at commercializing an idea by improving upon the one that got there first.

Innovation management expert, futurist and strategy consultant, Dr. Josef Martens is a sought-after speaker and trainer, appearing at conferences and major events, and conducting engagements for client organizations. For over a decade, Dr. Josef Martens has challenged and inspired leaders in research, science, industry, and government to take charge of the future. Scientist turned businessman, Josef Martens applies cutting edge insights from the field of science to spark innovation. To learn more about Josef, get on his mailing list, or inquire about booking him as a keynote speaker, contact us today.
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