Article published by Javier del Paso in, 2013.


Listening to media, we may end thinking that Innovation is something reserved for companies with a high technological component and that it involves massive investment and organization.

To stay where you are, you have to run as fast as you can. And if you want to go somewhere else you must run at least twice faster.
Lewis Carrol “Through the Looking Glass.”

Without any doubt, this kind of companies place innovation at the center of their strategic plans; and they can’t avoid it, because otherwise, in a few years, sometimes within months, their business would be severely affected without remission.

But the challenge of innovation affects any business, large, medium or small, as well as any product or service. And in most cases depends more on the structure and organization given to the company to address the challenge, than on high amounts of money to cover this plot.

Though I write this article thinking of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), I cannot resist making a reflection on some big companies approach; a reflection that is ultimately useful for those of much smaller dimension. There are large corporations that continue to distinguish, at an organizational level, between Strategic Marketing and Operational Marketing; to make a long story too short, the first would be more focused on issues related to innovation, while the second centers on a day to day management, and therefore on the short term.

There are schools of thought defending these organizations, just like others are supporting the opposite approach; the latter being the ones I personally I prefer. Because strategy, innovation, ultimately, the future must come from every day’s ‘trench’, which provides all the information about consumers, customers, competition, and market.

Having stated my opinion on the matter, arises the problem of how to prevent that day to day life, and all the problems it entails, will not delay or even destroy initiatives for that future. Although small and medium enterprises face the organizational dilemma already stated, they share with large companies an existence in a day-to-day that does not let space to think beyond. A daily life that involves achieving sales results in the current year, with the troubleshooter in countless plots ranging from machinery to personnel matters, or from seeking funding to collect pending charges. Some recommendations offered later in this article can serve to help with this problem.

In the case of small and medium enterprises, the second problem they face is that they do not have specific structures to address the challenge, simply because they cannot afford it. In my opinion, this is a clearly salvageable drawback because the most important (that is, as I said, knowledge of the market) is in the ‘trench’, and SMEs know much about ‘trenches.’ Additionally, SMEs have some incalculable strategic value: in the absence of complex organizational structures they lack bureaucracy and so decisions can be taken quickly.

As stated before, here I gather a series of methodological guidelines to prevent that ‘everyday’ impede us to think about the future, about innovation.

1.- Involve your entire organization, let them live the importance of the issue and create a climate where everyone feels heard; leverage their ideas. Find the time to capture them..

2.- Do not ‘abdicate’ this matter in a person or department. The entire organization must perceive its importance and for this, the head, ‘the owner’ let’s say, must be actively involved.

3.- Set a three years schedule and located in the ideas that you already have and the ones coming in. The easiest ones can be deployed at very short notice; the most complicated, for whatever reason, will be located in the longer term.

4.- The portfolio of ideas is constantly changing, because as ideas mature, some that are discarded, others are modified and new ones come in.

5.- Establish critical dates on the calendar, commitments to make a decision, so that no ideas extend indefinitely in time.

6.- Calculate what your sales objective from new ideas to one, two and three years; what percentage of your total revenue must come from new ideas which are still not reality. The rate varies widely from sector to sector, so it is essential to get to know yours.

7.- Keep a proper balance between easy, quick ideas, requiring very little investment to implement, but which also have reduced potential concerning results, and those ideas entirely opposite.

8.- Be brave, not bold, and avoid ‘paralysis by analysis’. Do not over-improvise. With some internal discipline, all of these points can be easily implemented and do not necessarily require investment.

Prevent that innovation remains ‘what I have to think about but now I have no time’ and integrate it into ‘every day.’ You’ll feel more comfortable, and you will be more aware of where you stand and particularly where you are going.