Have you ever noticed that we'll see a spate of revolutionary products, followed by a fallow period as those innovations are refined, productized and marketed? The smart phone space is a good example; the iPhone touched off a lot of scrambling by companies to innovate on their products, but now, two years later, even Apple is offering incremental software improvements, not game-changing innovation.
Greely, whose company makes a software platform that allows customers and companies to collaborate on new ideas, thinks the cycle's about to start an upward curve again. "There's a shift in the core focus to innovation," he said. "Companies have cut expenses, laid off workers and realize they still have people nipping at their heels. This is when they realize the only way to open some ground is to innovate."
The interesting thing about the coming innovation cycle is that it may encompass parts of the economy where innovation has not been appreciated in the past. BrightIdea's had plenty of technology-based customers in the past; these companies come from a culture of feedback and collaboration. But now, "it's really an eye-opener - consumer product goods companies - people who make popcorn and peanut butter - are coming to us."
The MarketBright product provides a structure for ideas to be collected, evaluated and moved through the development funnel. Without a system like that, aggregating ideas from many sources and then collaborating and assigning them a value is very difficult. That makes sense, since innovation is difficult, and it's only getting harder. "Smart companies understand that change is only accelerating," said Greeley. "Change is also a systemic risk to the business."
The question becomes this: how do you give your company a "higher metabolism" for innovation while minimizing the risks that innovation brings?
Greeley says that's the million-dollar question. Hi-tech already gets it, and BrightIdea's focused much of its business on the software industry, where implementing a customer idea might mean changing code in the next release instead of re-tooling a factory. But the audience for their product is growing; "Instead of us evangelizing, people are coming to us," he said.
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