When I see brick-and-mortar retail companies shut their doors, or think back to when Kodak filed for bankruptcy, it reminds me how too many companies play it safe rather than trying to tackle the challenges that their customers truly are experiencing.

To be different.

To beat the odds.

Most importantly, to be willing to change and grow.

One of the biggest misconceptions about innovation is it’s all about being current and in-the-now. Many confuse innovation with trendiness or technology. Innovation is the exact opposite. It is original and unique and should be the foundation of a long-term business model; because without it, businesses stop seeing the future and fall back on the old ways of doing things. Many companies begin with great ideas and plans that may end up being successful, yet lose their way because the company becomes comfortable and complacent. More importantly, the company becomes fearful of the what-ifs.

Here’s the bottom line: If you can’t provide something new, better, cheaper, or easier than your competition, you will fail. If you can’t break free from the shackles of fear of change, you will fail.

Innovation should be alive and tangible in your business. It should be genuine and permeate throughout your culture. Most importantly, it should have short-term and long-term goals. Don’t ask yourself what you want for your company. Ask yourself what your customers want and expect from your company. Some of the best inventions and companies continue to be successful because an idea was acted upon and made better or changed as time progressed.

So, I ask you this: Is your company playing it safe or is it playing to win by being innovative?

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