“Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson is credited with these words, and he was right. While innovation is always essential for businesses to thrive, there is perhaps no better time for new mousetraps than a time of upheaval. Rapidly changing circumstances means more quickly emerging opportunities, new business needs, and new consumer preferences, all precipitating the need for new offerings and fresh ways of doing business. The most successful companies will be those that invest the time to review how they go to market, and to look for improvements in both product and service.
“Necessity is the mother of invention” ~ English proverb
The English language proverb declares “necessity is the mother of invention”, which may actually be more to the point in today’s environment. Neither change nor innovation come easily. On the other hand, sticking to the “tried and true” or an approach of “because we’ve always done it this way” provides a false sense of comfort. Sooner or later, the failure to make changes will sow the seeds of irrelevance. The beauty of innovation, though, is that it takes many forms – a product, a process, even a fresh way of reaching customers. At the same time, change can be small and incremental. Some of the world’s greatest inventions were actually “discovered” by accident: Coca Cola (an Atlanta pharmacist tinkering with a cure for his headaches); chewing gum (in the search for a replacement for rubber); and Play-Doh (originally used as a wallpaper cleaner, then marketed as a children’s toy). Big advances often come from small steps.
Innovation is not exclusive to large companies with dedicated R&D, and doesn’t always require a big dollar investment. The first step on the course to new opportunities is the willingness to discard the notion of “business as usual.” It may be a road less travelled at first, but success comes to those that build a path out to meet it. Think of Emerson and focus on building your better mousetrap, knowing that when the time is right, the world will come and find you.
F. Bruce Sim