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Innovation is Not Just for the Big Guys

Yesterday, a colleague was telling me an exciting story of a company
that was embarking on a plan to break into an emerging market.  The
company he described was a components manufacturer.  Like every company
today, they are challenged by the current economic climate.  Like
everyone else, they are concerned about the sustainability of their
business in this new business reality.  However, rather than following
Lemming, Inc. off the cliff of retracting investment in the future,
this company has made a strategic decision to make their future today.

This company looked inward to understand their core competencies and
outward to understand the market and economic macro trends.  From that
understanding, they have identified a new opportunity space. They are
now moving forward with a product and business model innovation program
that will put them squarely in a new market and simultaneously
reclassify them as a different type of business.

It is an exciting story made even more interesting when we
understand that this company consists of only twenty five employees and
is completely self-funded.  This company is not alone in its desire to
find new channels of opportunity.  But we often hear people lament that
their company can’t embark on the path of innovation because they are
too small or lack venture backing.  Yet, here we have a proof point
that size needn’t be a constraint on innovation.  Small companies have
certain strengths that they can leverage to help them along the
way—agility, focus, team affinity, management engagement.

Of course, this parable contains a message for the big guys, too. 
When small companies are driving innovation all around you market
eco-system, how long can you afford to hunker down and try and simply
wait out the storm?  You can’t.  Such misplaced confidence will only
ensure that one day in the not too distant future you realize that
someone else has eaten your lunch.JT