Now that the Occupy Wall Street movement is losing steam, it makes sense to stop and consider another 1 percent. In this case I'm referring to the individuals, teams and firms that consistently succeed. People who are far more successful than their peers. Firms that seem to win the lion's share of any market. Why is it that a very small subset of the population is very successful, while the rest of us slog along in respectable mediocrity? Look no further than basketball as an excellent example. Of the thousands of basketball players around the world who are eligible to play in the NBA each year, only 72 are drafted. Several dozen more may be invited to participate in camps as free agents. Of those draftees and free agents, about half make a pro roster, and of those only a few are offered a large guaranteed contract. Sports, education, entertainment and business are rife with examples of great success accruing to a very small population of top performers.
Similarly, in the business sector, why is it that only a select few firms can innovate successfully over time, while most firms innovate sporadically and usually only under duress? What capabilities do firms like Google, Apple and 3M have that enable them to innovate so consistently over years or decades? As consistent innovation becomes ever more important, what can the rest of us learn from firms that have created a succession of valuable, interesting innovations over a long period of time?
In my new book Relentless Innovation I've labeled firms like 3M, P&G, W.L. Gore and Apple as Relentless Innovators. These are firms that seem to create new products and services almost effortlessly, products and services which have dramatic impacts on the lives of consumers and competitors. What is it about these firms that make them so successful? Is innovation leadership tied to charismatic leaders? Is innovation success tightly linked to corporate culture? Is sustained innovation so challenging that only a few firms will ever master it?
What's even more confounding is that the firms I've identified as Relentless Innovators actually share very little in common. Apple, Google, 3M, P&G and Gore have different business models, compete in different industries, have different leadership and organizational structures. Google and Apple are relatively young technology companies, while 3M and P&G are stately old-line firms. 3M and Gore primarily compete in the B2B arena, while Apple, Google and P&G sell primarily to consumers. Very little links these firms other than their ability to innovate consistently over time. In the series of blog posts that follow, I'll provide some insights from my research that indicate that only a few key attributes within any business dictate its ability to innovate successfully over time. What's more, those factors are already in place in every organization.
In the near future, as competition increases, consumer expectations and demands expand and product lifecycles shrink, innovation isn't simply a nice to have or an occasional initiative. Innovation must become a consistent focus and capability. The Relentless Innovators already understand this and have mastered the capabilities that drive consistent innovation. In Relentless Innovation, and over the next few posts, I'll explain how any firm, in any industry or geography, can become a Relentless Innovator.
Learn more about Relentless Innovation on the book website.