Category Archives: Social Entrepreneurs

A New Lesson in Innovation for Entrepreneurs

This entry was posted in Innovation, Social Entrepreneurs and tagged Innovation on February 28, 2011.

Food.  What is the first thing that comes to mind?  I bet it’s not innovation.  I recently had the opportunity to tour Rutgers University’s Food Innovation Center.  Rutgers has built an impressive facility with a food processing plant attached.  This facility is a past winner of NBIA’s  “Incubator of the Year”.  Local farmers can rent a food plant by the day to create new products from produce that would be normally discarded.  The design and flexibility of the facility has enabled a European firm to test launch a new food product. This visit got me thinking how uninventive we can be about innovation.

Early Thinking:

Avoid just a better product: Product innovation by itself is not sufficient for competitive advantage.  Thinking just about the product is a missed opportunity for more innovation.  The farmer that cannot sell bruised or imperfect fruit as fresh produce could focus instead on growing better peaches.

Or make a new drink product with unused product with greater profit margins. One peach grower did just that.

The simultaneous change in product delivery, value proposition, and profit model need to be farmed for innovation opportunities. That is, do not confuse product innovation with the broader concept of business model innovation.  This point is well made in a whitepaper entitled Business Model Innovation; When The Game Gets Tough, Change The Game. Take the example of Apple; its success is due to multiple simultaneous innovations in product, technology and service. The whitepaper outlines other company examples too1.

Simultaneous multiple innovations:  Think beyond your original innovation.  What other areas of your offering have not been looked at for change?  Look at innovative business models outside your industry for ideas.

Blink Analysis:

More than a better mousetrap: Thinking beyond product innovation is a seriously difficult task.  However, it appears organizations that do have been rewarded with market leadership.

  1. Z. Lindgardt, M. Reeves, G. Stalk, M. Deimler “Business Model Innovation, When The Game Get’s Tough, Change The Game”, Boston Consulting Group, (12/2009): 1-8. Bottom of Form

American Bandstand and The Enterprise Center

What could American Bandstand have to do with a Community Development Organization in Philadelphia?  I visited The Enterprise Center this week, which occupies the same building that first broadcasted Dick Clark’s famous TV show in 1952.  American Bandstand was an innovation and The Enterprise Center is making that a tradition by offering a broad range of initiatives to support community development.  They offer programs to support entrepreneurs in creating and accelerating already established businesses – my particular area of interest.

Early Thinking:

Teaching Students to Fish: One of the center’s programs is a youth entrepreneurship program (YES program) where high school students launch their own businesses.  The students I spoke with all had their “elevator pitches” down and were very articulate.

News about innovation and business creation comes at you from every direction; and has accelerated since the President’s January State of the Union Address.  Unfortunately, there is no innovation or business creation switch that one can just turn on: wish it were that simple.  I do not have the quantitative data to indicate the students will become entrepreneurs in their adult lives.  Certainly, working business creation problems will expose these students to important skills.

Blink Analysis:

My instincts tell me this program makes sense.   Starting with high school students and taking a long-term view is a way to build entrepreneurial skills.  These skills are useful even if they do not start a business beyond this high school project.