No matter where I go in the U.S., or what type of industry I work with, I see a common challenge across almost all companies. Many industries have significantly cut back the financial resources they have earmarked for innovation.

This situation is having impact on innovation leaders and their teams, as well as the companies’ product pipelines.

More innovation leaders have shared with me that they find themselves growing weary under the fatigue of tighter budgets and uncertainty as the economic climate continues to stagger along. The uncertainty of the future has caused many to indefinitely delay or table plans for growth.

However there are others that have decided to find a way to pursue new strategies and reach out.

Because we are now still in an era of little or no tolerance for failure in any industry, fear can close the doors of opportunity — shutting down the solution pipeline of new products that may be waiting for funding. But for forward-thinking strategists who can look beyond the forecasts and spreadsheets, there is hope for finding new ways of creating and delivering solutions, even on a shoestring budget.

For companies lucky enough to have leaders with such vision, the extended economic slump that we are in is becoming a catalyst that propels them along new pathways that otherwise wouldn’t have been taken.

Indeed there are not as many disruptive or game changing innovation efforts under way on as wide a scale as there were a few years ago. However companies that are pushing for concentrated incremental efforts will still separate themselves from those that do nothing.

As for customer engagement, as I have talked about before, we will continue to see unique ways that crowdsourcing and social media platforms will used to find opportunities to deliver better and more cost-effective solutions, ones that end users and customers will gravitate to in 2012.

Technology is even taking a new role in harvesting valuable information.

For those companies who can’t produce total solutions because of budget or resource constraints, look for more open-source partnerships to become the norm. This is one proven way of doing business with resources beyond companies’ brick and mortar walls.

It is always exciting for me to see companies find productive ways to overcome challenges and deliver successful solutions.

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