Innovate Or Die


Credit: Jayme Soulati via iPhone 4S to Instagram

Every news article you read, there’s something about company innovation. You can scale that to the size of your operation, and that can be in the realm of a self-published book, for example.

The examples I love and which inspire are:

Why Is Innovation Important?

Innovation is about remaining relevant. Companies that produce the same product or service the same way every day are not being innovative.

Companies that remain the same with no change for consumers become surely irrelevant.

Small businesses that never painfully challenge the status quo get stagnant after awhile.

Solopreneurs who never push the envelope to try new things cannot rise to the next level.

What is Innovation?

In this day and age, innovation can be defined in a variety of ways:

  • New products or services
  • New authority for the CEO
  • Increased levels of engagement by a company team
  • New realization that consumers are king.

Consumer Is King; Content is Queen

I want to focus on that a moment; consumers are king.  We’ve been hearing for awhile now that content is king. Nope. The throne is squarely in control of the consumer.

To innovate, companies need to understand consumer is king.

    • What does your consumer need to keep coming back to your business?
    • Where do you need to engage with consumers?
    • Where are they engaging with you?

The takeaway today is not really about defining innovation, because most of us know and understand what that means. Knowing what it takes based on market and consumer research, understanding the inside of your company, and knowing what business goals the company has set are all aspects of successful innovation.

This is such a broad subject, and I’ve only toplined a smidge of this topic. How do you break it down?

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Two-Wheeled Innovation — Bicycles, Business And PR

English: Bike sharing in Buenos Aires

English: Bike sharing in Buenos Aires (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To honor the founder of Spin Sucks, Gini Dietrich, with news about innovations in bicycling, especially after the devastating and ongoing debacle that is Lance Armstrong, it was pure serendipity that three (all things come in sets of  three) articles about two-wheeled transport presented themselves as I was catching up on my magazine reading.

(Whew! How’s that for almost the longest sentence in the world?)

Not to ignore happenstance, especially when bicycling has become the topic of de rigueur of late, I’d like to share these stories of inspiration to see if they (and I) may inspire your innovative and creative juices to launch such a smart venture, as well:


Robin Bylenga, 47, took up her bike after a divorce left her a single mother of three peddling hair products to beauty salons. In Greenville, SC, Robin became attached to her bike seat, and took an interim job at a local cycling store.

Women sought her out to speak about proper biking gear and attire as well as which trails were great for moms and kids. Robin decided to create a bike-shopping experience for women.

She researched the market for a year and opened Pedal Chic. Putting on her PR hat, she hosted weekly group rides, “bring your own beverage and bike” and also offered Women With Wrenches maintenance classes.

You can read more about Robin’s start up in, October 2012, “Changing Gears.”


In Fast Company, July/August 2012, an article called, “Pedal Power, Plus”  shared an innovative electric bike that took away the one obstacle commuters hate about biking to work — sweat.  A mobility designer has a new electric, foldable bike from Conscious Commuter and hopes to “evangelize a cleaner commute.”

Gabriel Wartofsky’s bike boasts a simple aluminum frame (fewer pieces than a normal bike and weighs in at 25 pounds (half that of a normal bike). Imagine the savings on parking and no need to expend pedal energy because the price tag is, ahem, $2,500.


Also in Fast Company, July/August 2012, “Wheeling And Dealing,” a young woman, Alison Cohen, is pushing “a brand-new industry in the U.S,” in bike sharing. With the advent of docking stations and fee-paying requirements, Cohen’s bike-sharing network in New York City is the largest, but not the first. Four other cities with such a program include Washington D.C., Miami Beach, Minneapolis, and Madison, WI.

The purpose is to enable commuters to transit the final mile between subway, bus, or trains stops. Clever pricing ensures the bikes are used for transportation and not tourism (a hefty price tag for someone wanting to meander through Central Park prohibits this). The public-private partnership involves cities, corporations, universities, and employees, of course.


So, what’s the moral to my story about these three stories?

Get out from within your tunnel and explore what’s around you. Listen to conversation; what are people asking for? Where are the greatest needs for businesses? How can you make things easier and faster and more efficient for people stuck commuting everywhere? What common good or service can be re-jiggered to be new again?

Take inspiration from these three creative people and begin to methodically pour over your own systematic routines to see if you can tweak one or two and become an innovator, too.

(And, below, I’m trying Zemanta for the very first time! Let’s see how it goes!)

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Thinking About Creativity


I’m on a quest to define creativity. Is it innovation, or are there differences between the two? I wrote recently about the need for PR and marketing to be more creative when it comes to putting a social media marketing plan together. Then I gave a list of nine tools available from which to select.

That’s really not creativity; that’s merely being smart about researching the space to see which tools fit the required strategy.

Then I read Inc. magazine about Stan Richards, founder of The Richards Group, an ad agency behind some of the most creative and controversial campaigns in advertising. (P.S. If you want to see one of THE MOST creative websites I’ve seen in awhile, hit his agency link, and here’s a link to his book, The Peaceable Kingdom.)

Creativity doesn’t need a muse; it needs a drill sergeant,” he said.  Richards’ firm adheres to strict rules:

>>[8:30] a.m. prompt start to the day

>>Accounting for each quarter hour or be docked $8.63 from pay

>>On time to meetings or risk being shut out

>>Close of business is 6 p.m.; go home

The man posts billings of $1.28 billion; he owns the most successful independent shop ever. Hats off, Stan!

Is creativity innate? It’s my humble thinking that the mind hinders creative embellishment. When your mind blocks your actions, you become inhibited. There is no comfort in your own skin; you fear making the wrong move, saying the wrong thing, looking like a fool (to yourself) among company.

Now put these thoughts into a company brainstorm where the team is attempting to define the big idea. (PR is all about the big idea.) Instead of being the first to say, “what about…” you tag team off someone else and slowly open your mind to new ideas.

Perhaps creativity is confidence. Stan Richards says creativity is discipline and regimented rules.

As a blogger it’s more imperative to be creative than ever before. This is my 252nd post; not so sure it’s a milestone of any sort, but looking back on a bloggers’ life, each post came from somewhere. The inspiration people take so lightly is actually extremely serious.

So, creativity also requires the ability to be inspired.

I’ll share about me a bit because it’s relevant. My mind has always been creative; I visualize the look of interiors in color and how a brochure should be designed with the raw copy in front of me. I hammer a nail on the wall eyes only and plop art perfectly in place (heh, perfectly to me because slightly askew fits my out-of-the-box persona). A steady stream of ideas leads to the ability for strategic brainstorming and also the ability to drill into segments and enhance each with detail.

With all that said, can we assume creativity is innate? Born in some and not others? Given as a gift to right brain thinkers while left brains lead with logic? Here are some of the conclusions from above, and I’m hoping you’ll add your thoughts to help with this discussion:

>>Creativity requires an open and unhindered mind.

>>Creativity requires inspiration and the ability to be inspired.

>>Creativity is confidence.

>>Creativity is innate.

>>Creativity is not innovation.

Please share your thinking, because more thinking also leads to a higher level of creativity.

Embrace What You Hate To Innovate

I know what I know and I hate what I don’t. This is a story about my inner demon that has plagued me all my life — my inability to embrace what I don’t know to grow. Let me share some past and recent examples:

>> Mom said I refused to ride my tricycle until one day I jumped on and went careening down the street.

>> I spent hours in the Paris airport letting all the stand-by flights go without me because I couldn’t speak French although I was trying.

>>I rarely line dance or take group aerobics because I’m a terrible follower and mistakes are rampant.

>>I refused to blog for a year because I was afraid about the tech that goes along with it.

>>My twin Gini chastised me in comments last week on Spin Sucks for not having Clicky already up and running on the blog.  Meanwhile, Erica Allison is all over it and can’t wait for more scoopage about who’s visiting her blog. (I kinda don’t want to know.)

There, you have it, and not sure whether that was therapeutic or not, but here’s what I’m doing about it:

>>I’m going to Facebook school this month via Social Media Examiner to take nearly two dozen classes Michael Stelzner and faculty have lined up in October for Facebook Success Summit 2011. I bought this class and have watched one pre-course video during which I was furiously taking notes.

>>I whined in comments somewhere about how scary installation of the new timeline was on Facebook and then decided I would master the dang thing and watched a tutorial four times to navigate being an app developer. Lo, my timeline is launched and waiting for live; meanwhile, I was able to walk Erica through her five-minute installation. (I broke my fear pattern and shared that knowledge in this case.)

>>I bought another course from ClickZ on analytics and SEO which was pretty expensive. I asked a client to pay half, and they concurred. I’ve not embarked on this intensive instruction yet, but will after Facebook school in October. (SEO has been the bane of my existence; seriously.)

>>After hearing all about Clicky and then reading this review on Brankica’s blog, I gave her the nod and clicked from her site to launch it on my blog. Heck, I even installed some code on my php footer (or whatever), but I have no idea of I did it right at all. I will see this week!

>>I did try to install PostRank just prior to Google buying it, but rather than go to the website, I somehow installed it direct from my blog via a plug-in. I get rankings in my dashboard for the blog posts, but, alas, the data are likely skewed because I installed it wrong. Whatev.

What’s my takeaway?

>>I have to fight with myself to embrace what I don’t know. I stall, I kvetch, I whine, I ignore, and I stumble only to realize I’m hurting myself.

>>These learnings are hindering my ability to innovate. As a leading-edge PR peep (I made the journey to the marketing blend a very long time ago) who works solo with virtual teams, there is no one to teach me. I have to strive to stay ahead.

>>I am fully aware of my patterns; this behavior has plagued me my entire life. It’s a discomfort, a fear of failure, a fear of looking like a fool, and it’s also my inability to ask for help.

>>As a starter, I need people on my team who can finish and take it to solution with a deeper dive (and thus I’m happy to turn over the analytics to Erica and Gini and Bran) while I generate strategic ideas. (I haven’t remedied this one yet.)

In conclusion…sorry for the first-person post today…don’t like to make a whine out of a piece, but am thinking this is more of an acute observation of obstacles to growth.

Share yours, please?



Failure To Innovation With Competence

Check out this article in the Wall Street Journal, “Better Ideas Through Failure.”  It’s about a unit of WPP Grey Group’s creation of the Heroic Failure award for employees who take an edgier, riskier approach to innovation and winning.

Then there’s the recent point of view piece I read in Ad Age from a vice president of marketing at Hoover’s. He was all set to hire a candidate when something struck him; the candidate was good, and he was competent, but that’s all. Competence is no longer good enough; candidates have to show more — get out of the corporate box and prove themselves as risk takers and, gasp, be entrepreneurial!

Putting two and two together, take a look at this picture:

** The status quo in the workplace is being shot down.

** The global platform is the new sandbox, and if you don’t come equipped with unusually innovative experiences then you can’t play.

** Thinking is what’s now required; in fact, it’s demanded in the workplace.

** Entrepreneurs rule. Have you seen all the hoopla about how those who innovate and manage their own companies are supposed to save the U.S. from a double-dip?

The initial concept about failure is nothing new to parents. We watch as our babies fall only to get up and walk. I’ve written about my failures as a blogger with the back end and analytics of this site (which can also be construed as lack of knowledge or failure to learn in a timely fashion, perhaps). Others can share failures as learning experiences all the time.

In business, though, failing is an expensive endeavor, but if that’s the new path to innovation, then by all means…make some stupid mistakes! Am certain the expectation is intense to learn from the errors, establish new and creative methods of winning and get teams to reach key performance indicators without failure, without negative effect on the bottom line, and efficiently.

Here’s what else the Wall Street Journal piece says of innovators:

** Take time off so original ideas can incubate.

** Be free to take risks, work on multiple projects at once to spark flexible thinking.

** In society and culture, civil conflict, political fragmentation and cultural diversity can trigger divergent thinking.

** What also helps individual creativity (and I don’t agree with this one IMHO) is “aggressive, egocentric or antisocial behavior makes it easier to ponder ideas in solitude or challenge convention.”

Fascinating stuff, eh? I’m sure you readers of the Harvard Business Review can muster some further food for thought on this topic? Or, perhaps an actual workplace experience might trigger a story or two?