David Dirks's talk at Orange County Business Accelerator, 12.08.11, summarized:
Even in a recession, innovation can give a small business the edge it needs to succeed, as long as the business is basically sound. Business consultant David E. Dirks [Focus Media] captivated an audience of a score of individuals involved in small businesses (less than $1 million per year) with his lecture, “How to Manage Innovation in Small and Early Companies,” presented at the Orange County Business Accelerator on Thursday, December 8th. He was introduced by Michael J. DiTullo, O.C.B.A. Managing Director [email@example.com].
Dirks [who writes a bi-weekly column for the Record] outlined five myths surrounding innovation:
Myth #1 -- Innovation is for big companies only. Not so. For example, James Dyson developed his revolutionary cyclonic-action vacuum cleaner on his own.
Myth #2 -- Innovation requires lots of money. Money is useful, of course, but Apple Computer’s $4 billion per year Research and Development budget has brought forth far more innovative products than Sony’s or Microsoft’s, at twice and three times as much yearly expenditure, respectively. Often small businesses are acquired by larger ones just for their innovative technology.
Myth #3 -- Customers will innovate for you. No, they bring problems. You must create solutions.
Myth #4 -- Innovation comes in flashes, “epiphanies.” Rather, new solutions more often come from careful, almost tedious, inspection of the facts, “connecting the dots.”
Myth #5 -- Innovation comes from luck, randomly. Edison said he had ten thousand failures, along with his one thousand patents. Dyson tried 5,127 different attempts before getting a successful vacuum cleaner. Pluck, not luck, prevails.
“If you build a better mouse trap, the world will beat a path to your door” is not strictly true, either. Dyson presented his innovative vacuum cleaner to all the existing vacuum cleaner manufacturers. They were not interested, partly because it was so different, partly because they made a significant fraction of their profit by selling the replacement filter bags. Customers, on the other hand, have made Dyson’s machines big commercial successes.
Dirks emphasized that small businesses can innovate well if they focus on solving problems for customers. New ideas can either remove constraints, thus producing “incremental” change, such as Wal-Mart’s highly efficient supply chain or can produce “disruptive” change, bringing to life a product consumers did not know they needed until they saw it, such as Apple’s iPod.
After the meeting, the attendees coalesced into several small groups for further discussion. This reporter acquired a client for his book-coaching business in one such a get-together.
The Orange County Business Accelerator celebrated its 110th week in operation with this highly successful seminar by Focus Media business consultant Dirks, whose former Marine Corp experience was evident from his making such presentations clearly, authoritatively, and concisely.
Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D., is a scientist, freelance writer and author of Ting and I: A Memoir of Love, Courage and Devotion, available as an ebook or paperback, from Outskirts Press, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
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