Progress – It’s a process.

Progress and innovation – ordinary expressions loaded with extraordinary potential.  The trick is to bring them back into our everyday business vernacular.

Since the beginning of 2009 many of us have put innovation (hence, progress) on the back burner for the sake of “the bottom line.”  When the pinch came, the first things to go from corporate budgets were advertising, marketing, and research, placing innovation on the endangered list.  Sadly, stagnant companies lose clients and the downward cycle spirals.  So, how do you stop it and restart the wheels of innovation while keeping an eye on the bottom line?

Begin with that project that is small enough to be cost-effective but with enough impact to make a difference.  Remember that project that you were starting right at the end of 2008… the one you pushed to the back burner come 2009?  Pull that out, along with others that have been shelved during the year.  Do a quick gut check, involve your sales force and even ask your customers what they think could make the biggest difference.  Ask questions.  An internal survey to your sales force is a great beginning.  Next consider on-line focus groups and in-facility/home tests. 

Loop in your existing customers with a customer satisfaction survey.  How have they weathered the recession?  How can you help them to meet their bottom line?  Now is a good time to remind your customers that you’re there.  Be the hand up, ready to help.  This investment in empathy will work in your favor when this is all behind us.  Nurtured customers will not forget.  Be the company that cares enough to connect and ask the questions before someone else beats you to it.  And, remember, there are many new ways to do research.  Work with someone who knows these new methodologies and use them to your economical advantage.  Keep in mind that progress takes time but progress is the path that leads to innovation.

Choose to be THAT company which breathes life into innovation and research.  Asking questions indicates that you are competent and will have the ideas to convert answers into solutions.  Remember, when the load feels heavy, it’s really not when broken down into manageable pieces.  Progress is a process … but it needs innovation or it will remain dormant.  None of us can afford that.