innovation | February 12, 2013

What Innovative Companies Don't Do: A New Talk By Doug Stephens

"Problem solving is about narrowing and focusing thinking," innovation speaker Doug Stephens writes in his new book, The Retail Revival. "Innovation is about broadening and expanding thinking. Half of the art of great innovation is recognizing the difference." With over 25 years of experience advising some of the world's biggest companies, Stephens has seen a pattern emerging. While he doesn't think that anyone truly holds foolproof strategies to innovation, there are a few key errors many companies make that hinder their innovation attempts. In his new talk, Stephens unpacks those errors. Call it a lesson on "How Not To Innovate" that teaches you how to do things right by avoiding what everyone else is doing wrong.

For example, he says you can't talk a big game about encouraging disruptive and forward-thinking strategies—but then reward compliance. It's one thing to say you embrace creative thinking and want to be a rule-breaker in your industry, but compensating conformity does little to make that actually happen. Innovation, at its core, means breaking from the mold and veering away from the pack. If you do what everyone else has done—you can expect to get the same results. If you are trying to innovate you need to be innovative in your strategy, too. And, with a nod to Susan Cain's work, he says that companies can't expect to be innovative if they continuously listen to the loud mouths of the group and never hear any other opinions.

While Stephens is an expert in retail consulting (he is the founder of Retail Prophet and consults companies on upcoming trends), his insights on innovation are applicable to any industry. Stephens' talks are both historical and forward-thinking: drawing from what companies have done in the past, combined with predictions of what will be popular in the future. His talks give your company a strategy that is broad in scope—but highly effective when exectuted.

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business strategy | February 11, 2013