Generally, there are two types of innovators. The first type tends to be individuals who have an innate entrepreneurial drive and who have managed to spot a consumer’s ‘struggle’ and decided to do something about it.
Take Uber, whose co-founder Garrett Camp was driven to create the on-demand cab platform after blowing north of $800 on hiring a private car one New Year’s Eve. This type of disruptive, category creating and defining innovator tends to be driven by the desire to solve a fundamental consumer problem. Netflix, Spotify, Buzzfeed, Snapchat and Taskrabbit can all defined as disruptive innovators who changed the game of their category.
The second type of innovators are those whose very essence and corporate culture is steeped in a spirit of innovation. These are businesses that are driven by a desire to constantly innovate, change, challenge, improve and evolve- and all for the benefit of the consumer- often before they have realised they need what they don’t yet have. Google, Amazon, Dyson, Apple and Tesla can all be defined as such entities.
Airbnb is one example of a business that whilst it was borne out of an unmet consumer need is constantly striving to innovate to remain a) relevant and b) competitive in an ever evolving category. Innovation lies at the heart of what the business and brand stand for and has become integral to the company culture, driving further game-changing innovations such as Airbnb Experiences, Neighborhoods and Business Travel arms of their business. This is the power of innovation.
So, whilst innovative businesses can be led by visionaries who dedicate their whole lives to breaking new ground such as Steve Jobs for Apple and Bill Gates for Microsoft, more often than not, successful, innovative businesses are driven by a group of people who SHARE the same belief in innovation, organisations that are curious about the world, hungry for discovering unmet consumer needs and by answering them making it a better place for their consumer and sometimes the world.
Ultimately, innovation isn’t something a business does as a means to an end, rather it is, or at least should be, entirely fundamental to how a business does business. Having innovation at the heart of a business at a cultural level is what not only drives meaningful change to a category but will on a commercial level provide a huge competitive advantage over the competition.
Jas Tang, Associate Consultant & Alex Beattie, Senior Consultant