Should You Be An “Imovator”?

Innovation has been a hot buzz word for the past few years.  The question is always whether to be on the bleeding edge (i.e., an innovator) or a fast follower.  I like the word “imovator” from a July 10th, 2010 Time article on the two business books – Different versus Copycats. 

Many people will tell you that we’ve tried that before or list all the reasons why something won’t work.  It’s never easy to be innovative.  At the same time, you don’t want to be innovative without a purpose.  There has to be a business value to justify the time and investment. 

One easy way to do this is to monitor your competition and simply make what they do better and less expensive.  This fast follower strategy has worked for many people.  They let the competition come up with an idea than execute on it better without having all the upfront investment. 

One of the examples in the article was Walmart.  Sam Walton didn’t invent the discount store, but he certainly figured out how to do it better and scale it.  So, as you think about 2012, what are your strategies for innovation and imovation? 

I personally find focusing on the whitespace between different products to create opportunities.  Look at how consumers use your products.  Look at the choices in the market.  There are often niches which can be grown to create opportunities.  The key is identifying those and creating something that is sustainable in terms of differentiation.

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