Innovating from the inside-out

Why do we spend so much time studying customer needs as the basis for innovation, when its real source is right in front of our eyes? Innovate from the core and you’ll guarantee that your company enjoys a long and happy life.

I recently read an article about Starbucks and its attempt to rejuvenate itself by going back to its essential, idiosyncratic roots, its eclectic, neighborhood gestalt, which eventually spawned its enormous success. Analysts are betting against the company’s ability to make this work. Howard Schultz, Starbuck’s founder and current CEO, says it will. I say it will. Why? Because innovating from the core – going ‘back to the future’ to jump-start innovation is the most natural act in the world.

Ford does it by continuing to ‘democratize the automobile,’ something it’s been good at since 1900.

IBM does it by applying technology solutions to solve the world’s thorniest business – and now societal – problems.

Apple does it by irrepressibly finding new ways to ‘humanize the computer.’

How does your company do it?

Why are we obsessed with promulgating the “new and improved” when the life of our organizations depends on constantly re-interpreting its original vision, or purpose in ways that marry up to how people and markets are changing?

Why do we look outside for answers that are right under our noses?


Flickr photo courtesy of H. Kopp Delaney


  • Gerald Sindell

    Really terrific. I think, or hope, that’s there’s one more piece here, and that would be the link between the innovation that absolutely was the core of every successful new company’s success and the understanding that the original innovative impulse (and success) must be nurtured as the driver of innovation forever. When the 2nd generation of management becomes a caretaker instead of innovation driver, the org will certainly whither. That would be Ford after Ford, Apple in the years Jobs was gone, and so on.

    Identity, which is based so profoundly on the initial innovation and innovators, is the eternal key to authentic innovation.

    November 3, 2011 at 8:35 pm
  • Elsie Maio

    Stirring insights, guys, which applies macro and micro. E.g. brings me back to the notion that the ‘deep inside’ fullest sense of who we are as humans—I think of that as ‘soul’—is the eternal spring, the source of rejuvenation. Just a question of using our personal ‘souls’ to direct us to the organizations aligned to nourish it. For isn’t that the purpose of organizations, anyway? to nourish humanity? And there’s the virtuous circle of continual renewal and innovation. As I think Larry’s saying, it helps to know your authentic identity, or personal ‘soul,’ as a starting point, whether you’re a company—or a humanoid.

    November 3, 2011 at 8:40 pm
  • Sue Phillips

    I recently received your blog about Innovation – and What’s Old is New Again. I am in the Cosmetic and Fragrance Industry and was delighted to read it, because Innovation is the CORE of what needs to be done in our industry and so often we do refer to the past for inspiration!

    I have just returned from a trip to Morocco and was fascinated by the multi-sensory aspects of the product offerings – the sights, sounds, aromas and colors of the foods, scents, textiles which were all amazing. I was so inspired I wrote an article entitled ‘Everything Old Is New Again’ which will be published in the Spring edition of GLOW a magazine for Beauty, Health and Wellness. Very interested to learn more about your thoughts.

    November 3, 2011 at 8:41 pm

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