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Article by Prof. Hari Parmeshwar.


(Hari Parmeshwar is Visiting faculty at leading business schools in India. He has done Masters in Business Law (MBL) from  National Law School University of India, Bangalore, PGDM from XLRI, Jamshedpur and B.Com (Hons) from Sri Ram College of Commerce, New Delhi.) 


In the organizational context the nature of Innovation is such that it is a process of developing a creative idea so that it can be put to practical use.


The management guru Gary Hamel talks about "corporate sperm count" -- the virility test of how many ideas your business generates. Many managers fear that too many ideas will be unmanageable but the most innovative companies revel in multitudes of ideas.


When BMW launched its Virtual Innovation Agency (VIA) to canvass suggestions from people all round the world it received 4,000 ideas in the first week. And they continue to roll in. If you go to their site, you can make your own contribution to BMW's idea bank.


The Toyota Corporation in-house suggestion scheme generates over 2 million ideas a year. Over  95% of the workforce contributed suggestions; that works out to over 30 suggestions per worker per year. The most remarkable statistic from Toyota is that over 90% of the suggestions are implemented.  Quantity works.


The best way to create value is to innovate your way ahead of the competition. You need to create temporary monopolies where yours is the only show in town. You can do this by harnessing the creative power of your greatest asset, your people. The goal is to turn them into opportunistic entrepreneurs who are constantly looking for new ways of doing business.


A copy-machine operator at Kinko's, a major chain of outlets providing copying and document services, noticed that customer demand for copying dropped off in December. People were too pre-occupied with Christmas presents to do much copying for the office. So he came up with a creative idea. Why not allow customers to use Kinko's color copying and binding facilities to create their own customized calendars using their personal photos for each of the months? He prototyped the idea in the store and it proved popular -- people could create personalized gifts of calendars featuring favorite family photos. The operator phoned the founder and CEO of Kinko's, Paul Orfalea, and explained the idea. Orfalea was so excited by it that he rushed it out as a service in all outlets. It was very successful and a new product -- custom calendars -- and a new revenue stream were created.

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