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Innovate or Die

This week I am coming to you from sunny Orlando Florida where I am attending the annual Executive Forum – New strategies for a new era in staffing, conference.

I had the pleasure today to attend a Keynote Speech by Gary Hamel a Business Strategy Expert. The Wall Street Journal recently described Gary as the world’s most influential business thinker.

The message in Gary’s speech was that to be a successful business in 2015, everyone in the business has to innovate and they have to innovate every day.

Gary believes that innovation is becoming more and more important, is really the only insurance against irrelevance, is the only antidote for commoditization, and is the only thing that will keep driving customer loyalty.

He gave the example of Apple with iPhones being a company that is leading the way with innovation. He said they keep customers and dominate their market because of their willingness to keep innovating and adding new ideas to their products. Hard to disagree with that.

He stressed the importance of innovation being driven by everyone in the business and not just the “brains trust” in the C-Suite.

He believes to develop a culture of innovation a business must focus on three key elements…




Gary said the mind of the innovator focuses on four key areas…..

1.     Challenging industry orthodoxies (Does it have to be this way?)

2.     Harnessing trends and discontinuities (You need a wide angle lense, not a crystal ball)

3.     Leveraging assets and competencies (What do we know and what can we do with that?)

4.     Meeting unmet customer needs (How do you create a gift for your community / customers?)

Gary said that the arithmetic of innovation is that there needs to be lots of ideas, then experimentation, then projects, then finally a winner. He used an interesting analogy to demonstrate his point and that is, that to make a baby, millions of sperm need to be produced to get one result. He said it is the same of innovation, lots of ideas to get one or two winners. The message, his words not mine, “don’t be the company with the low sperm count”.

Gary made the observation that most companies spend a lot of resources on Process Efficiency but very little on Innovation.

He challenged all business owners to make it everyone’s job every day to innovate. He urged those present to look at what your competitors are doing and ask the question, “How can we do it differently?”

As he rightly pointed out, businesses that take innovation to this level can say to their staff or potential staff, “Whenever you work with this organisation, you have the chance to drive the future of it.”

For more free information on “innovation” you can visit the website


Stuart Freeman is an Executive Recruitment Consultant in the Insurance space, a blogger, an owner of a high end wine business, and a dad of 3 daughters. He can be contacted directly on or on twitter @StuartFreemanKR

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