The most important idea. The one you haven’t thought of yet
Published: February 10, 2022

Most owners started their business with a good idea, one that got them really excited, that made them leave their old company, that attracted new talent, new customers. The idea brought them stability, happiness, and maybe even some wealth.

You can sense a but coming.

But that idea is no longer enough. A good one can only get you so far, because at some point the new idea will become old. Patents will run out. Customers may get bored with it. Competitors can copy and improve on it. Employees will become stale as the idea becomes less and less exciting.

Not forgetting investors. They may like your original idea, but still fail to invest in you. Why? Because your idea is no longer the exciting new kid on the block. It may have served you well in the past, but past success is no indication of future performance. Investors want to know not just where you’ve been, but where you’re going next. They’ll want to know what the next great product or service is coming down the research and development pipeline. Will it be smart, strategic and exciting enough to increase sales and market share, or will your company’s lack of vision give an edge to the competition? That’s the risk of relying on old ideas and failing to develop new ones. You’re yesterday’s news.

Take the case of Blackberry, and its parent company Research In Motion (RIM). The iconic BlackBerry device, with its unique keyboard and push messaging system, ruled the smartphone market in the early 2000s. In the US BlackBerry held more than 50 percent of smartphone market share as late as the first quarter of 2009.

But even as sales of the sleek new Apple iPhone began to gain momentum, BlackBerry failed to develop a robust new operating system and interface to compete with the rest of the touchscreen pack. The entrance into the touchscreen market of the 2008 BlackBerry Storm was panned by critics for sluggishness and bugs, and virtually ignored by consumers. In the space of three years BlackBerry’s U.S. market share was down from over fifty per cent to a paltry 1.6 percent.

How can you ensure this doesn’t happen to your business?

You need to put fresh thinking at the heart of your operation. It’s no good waiting until problems arise, such as with the pandemic. You need to be forward-thinking, and show you have strategic innovation as part of your business strategy.

Employees, customers, suppliers and investors all like to be part of something new and exciting. That doesn’t mean you need to create something different every quarter. But what it does mean, is that you have a system and pipeline in place to generate new products or services.

If you’re not big enough to have a Research and Development Department, put in place a team whose role is to come up with new products and services. Look at what the competition is doing. Speak to customers. Explore market trends. Be prepared to take risks. If you fail, fail fast. But keep the ideas coming. And those that have merit, act on them.

Resting on laurels is no way to build value.