What’s Level 1A? At Level 1, there is a single innovative idea. It improves or expands the existing business and measuring its success is no different from measuring the performance of the existing business. Also, there is no need to hire new kinds of experts or to substantially change job descriptions or core business process. At Level 1A, innovations can be implemented in a short time period — at most, a few months.
Innovation Principles: The most fundamental innovation discipline is one of learning quickly from experiments. That is easiest when feedback is rapid and the innovation makes only limited departures from the existing business. The most prepared innovators identify the specific performance measures that are likely to be affected by the innovation, understand how those changes will impact profitability, and are ready to react quickly should the experiment produce disappointing results.
The discipline of innovation is first and foremost a discipline of experimentation. Innovation projects have uncertain outcomes. Many managers, by training, abhor uncertainty. They endeavor to eliminate as much of it as possible. The more accurate the forecasts, the better the decision-making, the thinking goes.
All companies, whether small or large, whether new or established, must innovate. In fact, all companies eventually reach a crisis where the options are stark and simple. You can innovate, or you can die.
Many companies, even the largest, stumble when they reach that crossroads. In fact, the average life expectancy of a Fortune 500 company is less than that of a human being. As Ray Stata, Chairman of semiconductor giant Analog Devices Incorporated (ADI) once said: “Every business has a life, and you always need to be looking beyond that life. The job of the CEO is to sense [the end of life] and respond, and to be an encouraging sponsor for those who see the future.” In other words, the only way to turn a thriving enterprise into an enduring institution is to strike a healthy balance between innovation and business-as-usual.
A high-stakes innovation challenge could arrive at any moment. Your own crossroads could be months away or it could be decades away. To wait for it to arrive is to wait too long. The day to start building your company’s innovation muscles is today.
Just a couple of years after they launched their new business, Mukund Kavia and Kusum Kavia could see the end coming.
Combustion Associates, Incorporated (CAI), a minority business enterprise, had opened its doors as an engineering consulting firm in Southern California in 1989. Their timing could not have been better. California Air Quality Management Districts had just passed more demanding air quality regulations. Commercial boilers of a certain size — those used to provide heat and hot water in schools, hospitals, and hotels, for example — needed to be upgraded to meet the new standards. The managers of such operations did not typically employ experts on boiler emissions. They needed help. They needed someone like Mr. Kavia.
As a result of its fortuitous timing, CAI got off to a fast start. Mr. Kavia was a Kenyan of Indian descent, and he had been educated in the United States and the United Kingdom in the field of mechanical engineering. In starting CAI, he had found a satisfying way to put his skills to work and to earn a living as an entrepreneur.
There are dozens of ways to increase profits. You can cut costs, you can negotiate more aggressively, you can raise price. Perhaps, however, you want profits plus something more profound.
Some companies excel at today’s business. Those companies keep the wheels of the economy turning. Other companies innovate. These are the companies that build a better economy for tomorrow and raise living standards for all.
The largest companies have mammoth resources at their disposal for innovation. And so it is, and so it should be, that the most storied innovators are always the underdogs — those working in the garage.
Your garage may be lonely, but you do not work alone. America stands behind its minority business enterprises and salutes its innovators. In particular, America honors its enterprising leaders of this generation and of generations past for their historic and continuing contribution to the America we take pride in today. To sustain its greatness, America must continue to foster innovation domestically, attract the most talented and energetic business leaders from around the world and put their skills to work in this nation.
The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) unveiled a new web-based intellectual property (IP) Awareness Assessment Tool designed to help manufacturers, businesses, entrepreneurs and independent inventors easily assess their knowledge of intellectual property (IP).