While there is no direct route to disruption or proven formula for innovation, one can certainly learn from what others have done. By taking a closer look at the strategies that successful companies have pursued, we can identify some of the elements required to become a market leader and pioneering force…
Google Inc: Reward Failure
Almost every discussion around corporate innovation inevitably involves the search giant Google – and for good reason. As one of the world’s most valuable and influential companies, it has shaped the way the Internet is used and how people access information. Despite its enormous success to date, Google’s leadership continues to push boundaries and encourage grassroots innovation. The company has stated that it achieves this by, in part, ‘anticipating what people would want if they knew what was possible.’ In addition to this open-minded and big-picture approach, the company also encourages failure. This doesn’t mean pursuing bad ideas, or pursuing good ideas badly – it simply means encouraging employees to take risks and to pursue big ideas. By ‘rewarding failure’, the company is sending a message to employees that it sees value in the pursuit of ideas – and even those that might fail. This strategy has certainly paid off, with Google pioneering concepts such as driverless cars and augmented reality glasses.
Warby Parker: Solve a Problem
The U.S. based eyewear boutique Warby Parker provides an inspiring example of what can be achieved by serving a deliberate purpose and solving a social problem. According to reports, annual revenues at the five-year-old company exceed US$100 million. What started as a small online enterprise serving a niche market quickly grew into a trendy retail company, with ten physical stores and a booming online presence. The secret to its success, its founder has explained, has been following a deliberate path. The company started out with a clear goal in mind – ‘to offer designer eyewear at a revolutionary price, while leading the way for socially conscious businesses.’ Its founders had recognised that glasses were too expensive, and one company dominated the country’s prescription eyewear industry. Consumers therefore lacked affordable options. As Warby Parker explains, by navigating around traditional channels, designing glasses in-house, and engaging with customers directly, “we’re able to provide higher-quality, better-looking prescription eyewear at a fraction of the going price”.
The company follows a carefully thought-out strategy, aimed at solving a specific problem, with a very clear outcome in mind. It also strives to constantly make an impact and improve the quality of life in communities worldwide.
Apple Inc: Pursue Perfection
While many market watchers have criticised Apple for ‘failing to innovate’ over the past few years, this reflects a narrow-sighted view. The legendary technology company continues to be a pioneer in its field, although its innovations are less visible and perhaps more subtle than what consumers came to expect during the days of the former CEO Steve Jobs. With what has been termed a ‘design mindset’, Apple constantly strives to push the boundaries of perfection, and improve upon its existing product offering. By paying obsessive attention to the finer details – from small tweaks to its software to the packaging that products arrive in – the iconic company is still able to consistently surprise and delight both new and existing Apple users. In its dogged intent to provide the best customer experience possible, Apple is constantly innovating and looking for ways – both large and small – to deliver on the brand promise.