It’s often been said that if you don’t innovate, you stagnate. Never has this maxim been as true as it is today when the rate of change is fast and furious. New ideas, new approaches and new undertakings are part of every business person’s lexicon — and if they’re not, they should be. In fact, in the competitive landscape that is today’s reality, new is seemingly the most used word in the vocabulary — to the point that it is often overused, and sometimes its meaning is also obfuscated. After all, what is truly considered new? Is something truly new if it’s only been tinkered with slightly? Regardless of the semantics, the point that needs to be underlined is that today’s über-demanding consumers hunger for products that are uniquely different and special, just as they crave experiences that can’t be easily replicated. Today’s customers are looking for novel interpretations and spins on the ‘same old, same old,’ on basically everything, ranging from menu items to the way restaurants look and feel to how staff communicates with customers.
If your company understands the importance of keeping ideas fresh, the questions you need to be asking are: how do you imbue the desire for innovation in every member of your team, and how do you make innovation work for you?
The good news is, when it comes to innovation (see story, p. 15), there are no boundaries: it can be as simple as changing one small element of the business to crafting something so entirely novel and unique that others end up asking themselves “Why didn’t we think of that?” (Probably because they were too busy copying what others were doing and not spending enough time and energy creating their own new ideas.) As a society, we’ve become so focused on the “me-too” syndrome that we’ve become horribly homogenous. If one company finds success with one product, for example, everyone follows suit, instead of exploring and exploiting a different niche that will perhaps yield more generous returns. As an example, when you look at some of the most innovative companies in the market, you’ll undoubtedly find common traits: a focus on ideas, a passion for the business and a lack of aversion to risk. Not surprisingly, Google — which is ranked number 1 on Fast Company magazine’s list of The World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies — is fuelled by innovation. The behemoth is credited with almost “too many” innovations (pegged at 29). Sure, not every company can be like Google, but clearly every company can try to be innovative. As Nick Perpick, former president and CEO of Prime Restaurants, said recently at his retirement party, in today’s competitive marketplace, every company needs to be bold and brave. So, the question remains: is your company doing all it can to stand out?
In addition to focusing on innovation in this month’s issue, F&H is proud to highlight tomorrow’s rising stars by profiling recent winners of the Top 30 Under 30 presented by the Ontario Hostelry Institute (see story, p. 22). Undoubtedly these bright, young people will be tomorrow’s innovators. Enjoy.