Wow, iPhone 6: What it Takes to Continuously Innovate

Strategy MattersMOST ORGANIZATIONS are as slow today as five years ago in being able to act on ideas and deliver new products to the marketplace, despite a growing demand for innovative solutions. Why is this still the case? I use four stalwart firms – Apple, P&G, Whirlpool, & Nike – as models for organizations that get it right in being able to continually adopt change and innovate. Why just yesterday Apple announced the release of its iPhone 6 and 6+ products; each year about this time innovate - innovation(September) Apple is able to act on new ideas and produce a new product that delivers new value to its global base of consumers, driving billions of dollars of new revenue.

GE is another great example of a company that’s able to continuously innovate. According to Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE, “business leaders have no choices here. Nobody is allowed not to play. Nobody can say, ‘I’m going to sit this one out.’ That’s the way you drive change.” As for my work related experiences, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt this same way but then looked around to see my work colleagues trying to rationalize “sitting it out” for various reasons. They simply were not committed to doing something different – sitting it out and waiting for the next CEO/COO was thought to be a “safer” route. I argue that the impediments to innovation are NOT due to a lack of good ideas – that’s the easy part – but rather bureaucratic inertia. By this I mean that NOT enough leaders are committed to new ways / change, NOT bought into innovation as a job priority, and NOT convinced on the need for continuous marketplace performance through new product offerings of value to the customer.

Similar to what Apple, P&G, Whirlpool, & Nike does, it’s time to start holding business leaders and senior staff accountable for actively supporting new ways/products as a core part of their measurable performance. It is NOT OK to sit it out and focus 100% effort on maintaining the status quo, at least not it today’s competitive market. Innovation starts at the top of the organization, tied to a realistic vision that stretches organizational abilities, and enabled through effective leadership and strategy to generate competitive advantage through new product innovation.


Dr. Robert Bornhofen
Dr. Robert Bornhofen
Dr. Robert Bornhofen is a scholar-practitioner with over 25 years of experience. As a scholar, he currently teaches strategy at Cornell University and the University of Maryland Global Campus. As a practitioner, his corporate career includes a variety of leadership roles at Fortune 500 companies IBM, Delta Air Lines, & Citibank. Dr. Bornhofen earned his Doctorate degree at the University of Maryland, a Master of Science degree from Colorado State University, and a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Minnesota. As a conference speaker, Dr. Bornhofen presents at various industry forums. His current focus is on innovation within the water utility sector. As a researcher and author, Dr. Bornhofen published over 20 papers on topics related to innovation strategy. Passionate about change, Dr. Bornhofen embraces the creative spirit that goes into problem-solving, where smart people come together to transform great ideas into extraordinary outcomes. His articles reflect this passion and desire for continuous learning.

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  1. You have a powerful call to action here. It is NOT OK to sit it out. Everyone has to play or pay. Pay with their reputation, pay with their customer base, and more importantly pay with their potential to expand and thrive. In their book Innovation to the Core, Peter Skarzynski and Rowan Gibson identify the four lenses of innovation. They say innovation doesn’t come from an inherent, individual brilliance, it comes from seeing with new perspective. These they said are the lenses of innovation:
    1. Challenge Orthodoxies
    2. Harness discontinuities
    3. Leverage competencies and strategic assets
    4. Understand needs of the customer even if they can’t articulate them

    I read that book back in 2009 and I read it because innovation was my word of the year and that book was like a how to for the innovation novice that I was, and still am.