2010 (in fact anytime) is an important time to innovate in your business.


When I ask people to describe where they want to be within 3 years, it is easy to say, 10%, 20%, or 30% growth. But this only brings out the normal strategy to try and grow to this level. If someone says that they want to grow from six million to 50 million, I enthusiastically clap, as this is going to require radical thinking and innovation to achieve these types of results. This is where the good ideas and the creative juices start to work.


Let me just share with you about 2 companies who have taken different approaches to come up with innovative ideas.



Good Year has teamed with their leading research and testing institutions, who are their outsourced suppliers, to work in relationships that encourage joint development. Their aim is innovation to bring new products to market at a fast pace. Since April 2009 suppliers have already proposed 2,000 initiatives covering the areas of acquisition costs, materials, management, conversion costs, and new product development, which can have a direct positive impact on Good Year’s product innovations. These initiatives will serve to enhance Good Year’s overall research and development expenditures but more importantly they will significantly enhance the companies supply chain.

The definition of a good supplier goes well beyond a ‘cheap’ supplier for the next quarter. When you partner with your suppliers, they are ready to take on the innovation challenges that are required for any company. The company stated that they wanted to make sure there were sufficient incentives provided to their suppliers so they could concentrate on the most marketable innovations.


Company 2: 3M

3M encourages curiosity amongst their employees by allowing an employee to spend 15% of their time on projects of their own choosing, giving them permission to develop ideas or technologies that may be outside of their regular work focus. Such policies increase the odds of collaboration as the path of curiosity often leads employees beyond their knowledge base to a place where they need the advice or the insight of others.

Often Group or department managers tend to focus on the core related projects and don’t want to spend money exploring or developing innovative ideas - this becomes a road block. In order to to create an innovative culture, 3M have generated in their budgets “Genesis Grants” so that employees can apply for funding of innovation projects that don’t fit neatly into existing departments.


Innovation is all about breaking down the barriers internally within an organization but most importantly within an organization and its partners. Most organizations do this very poorly – they talk about "partnering" and "eco-systems" and "win", but at the end of the day, they treat their partners purely as a vehicle for revenue.

Start thinking how your business could break down the barriers to innovation both within your own team and in partnership with others, you will be surprised at the difference it can make to the bottom line.

Peter Irvine
Peter is Co-Founder of Gloria Jean’s Coffees, author of "Win In Business", speaker and business consultant.

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