There is no doubt that innovation is vital to a strong, healthy community, whether you live and work in a small town or large metropolis. I recently had the opportunity in my own community here in northeast Wisconsin to make a case for innovation, along with other industry experts. In that report, I said that I’ve worked with a lot of companies that have been struggling. They’re stymied by the challenges of this economy, and are looking for new ways to achieve growth and customer satisfaction. Their challenge is to also change what the world needs rather than letting the world just change them. That takes innovation.
Many of the leaders in our communities have realized that although the current economic situation is likely going to continue for the foreseeable future, they need to look past the next quarter and explore new ways to stimulate innovation for the long term. They are adjusting their current strategies and refocusing on finding the right balance between shorter-term efforts and longer-term growth opportunities through innovation. This is the right strategy for future growth.
For companies lucky enough to have leaders with vision, refocusing on finding the right balance between shorter-term efforts and longer-term growth opportunities through innovation enabled by capital and new venture investments is a solid approach to deliver for future growth. These types of investments become a catalyst that propels along new innovative pathways that otherwise wouldn’t have been taken.
Indeed there are not as many high risk capital or new venture enabled innovation efforts underway on as wide a scale as there were a few years ago. However, companies in our region are pushing for selective and concentrated efforts that separate themselves from those that do nothing.
Economic development is creating value for the region and the companies. It involves many levers of innovation beyond offerings such as products, process and services. These three are connected as offerings that companies and organizations deliver to their end users – customers, shoppers, consumers and even their shareholders. They all play their role in innovation. Many leaders in the New North have realized that it is no longer enough to just deliver these offerings to create economic value. For them, the total solution often must include other elements such as new business models, unique delivery models that create an engaging experience, and also the creation of new strategic alliances and partnerships. They focus these partnerships in the region on delivering growth and innovation by leveraging joint resources, capital, and capabilities while minimizing their investment risk.