It seems virtually every discussion I get into about advances in sales, marketing, or business eventually gets to technology. I guess it’s sexy and cool to talk about neat technologies and other things we leverage. It’s cool to show mobile devices, display screens, wearables, and other sorts of things. They are things we can embrace and start to use, then subsequently blame, when they don’t produce results. Or we can move technology to technology, always claiming, “just wait, this one is it.”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m really a geek/nerd. I’m an early adopter of virtually every new technologies. I have closets filled with retired devices, cables, software, and all sorts of other things. I have a clutter of apps downloaded, used a few times then abandoned. I also find technology very useful and extends my ability to accomplish things.
But shouldn’t we really be talking about Innovation in selling, marketing, or business.
Too often, we think Innovation and Technology go hand in hand. I try to get into conversations about Innovation with people, then quickly find myself in a discussion about a cool new tool, app, or software package.
Innovation is not constrained by technology. Innovation looks far beyond the technology. Innovation can be in business models, business process, in human engagement. There are many innovations we confuse with being “technology innovation,” where they are really innovations of another kind. Zappo’s innovation has little to do with on-line shopping technologies. Instead, it’s innovation was in empowering it’s people to create awesome customer experiences. Toyota’s manufacturing innovation (decades ago) was less in manufacturing technology, but in putting the power to stop the line in the hands of workers. Nordstrom’s innovation in customer experience/service with unquestioned returns has made it a leader in retailing. Ritz Carlton’s commitment to customer service and outstanding experience through the way they greet you at check-in, through empowering every employee to spend up to $2000 to help a guest solve an issue, Salesforce.com’s innovation was less one of technology, but more one of changing the traditional business model of software sales/implementation. It moved software from a licensed product to software as a service. Amazon is currently innovating it’s customer experience–focusing on same day delivery. Yes, some of it is technology driven (there’s a drone coming to your neighborhood), but a lot of it is more traditional–where warehouses are located, contracting with the Postal Service for Sunday deliveries, assessing their own delivery networks.
Confusing Innovation and Technology limits us. Technologies are easily copyable. Business models, business process, and particularly human engagement are far more difficult to copy and get right. Look at any of the examples cited above. Their Innovations are very public, there’s nothing secret about them, yet there are few who have “copied them,” achieving the same levels of success.
Innovation is critical to every organization. When we think of innovation, we should not confuse it with technology–though technology may be an enabler of the innovation. We should really focus on business models, business process, and how people work together.
What innovations are you driving in your organization?