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The Not-So-Secret Secrets of Innovation

As the economic recovery continues, many companies are focusing on innovation to grow their businesses. Innovation serves as the benchmark at companies like Apple, but the ideal of becoming an innovative organization seems be shrouded in mystery.

Innovation is not meant to be only for a select few organizations. In the book The Innovator’s DNA published by Harvard Business Review Press, the authors outline the following characteristics that managers can focus on to generate innovation:

  • Associating – Connecting unrelated ideas
    • Apple’s iPhone combined a computer and a phone.
  • Questioning – Asking how might things be different?
    • The Polaroid camera was inspired by the inventor’s daughter asking why she couldn’t see a photo right away.
  • Observing – Seeing better ways of doing things
    • Campbell’s Soup At Hand allows soup to be microwavable and enjoyed without a bowl.
  • Networking – Experiencing diverse perspectives
    • Starbucks’ Howard Schultz visited Italy and experienced the community feeling of Italian coffee shops, which was applied to Starbucks.
  • Experimenting – Trying new ideas
    • Amazon is known as a regular experimenter, with offerings such as the Kindle, Kindle Fire, Amazon Prime and Amazon Cloud Player, among many others.
  • Courage – Desire to change the status quo; comfort with mistakes
    • Netflix’s transition from DVDs to streaming was courageous. In addition, the company experienced backlash from consumers over its pricing plan change.

Management consultant Peter Drucker outlines specific requirements of innovation that also can be studied and practiced by the everyday manager. According to Drucker, a successful innovation should be:

  • Simple and focused
    • Chipotle Mexican grill is a wildly popular yet simple and focused concept.
  • Set the standard
    • The Toyota Prius set the standard for hybrid vehicles.
  • Achieve category leadership
    • Apple’s iPod has been the category leader since its introduction in 2001.
  • Require hard work, diligence, persistence and commitment
    • Hamdi Ulukaya of Chobani worked hard to create the best possible experience in the yogurt category.
  • Have knowledge, ingenuity and focus
    • Hayley Barna and Katia Beauchamp, founders of Birchbox, understood consumers like to sample personal care products when they created their Internet beauty products sampling service Birchbox.

Domus, Inc. consults for its clients on innovation strategy and planning, including market opportunity analysis, idea generation and evaluation, go-to-market strategy and testing and measurement.

Ed Samide is a Senior Account Manager at Domus, Inc., a marketing communications agency based in Philadelphia. For more information, visit For new business inquiries, please contact CEO and founder of Domus, Inc. Betty Tuppeny at or 215-772-2805.

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