Imagine that you could know with precision who your potential customers are and when they would want what you have to offer. What if you were a banker and could predict which customer would open an account with your bank and so send the forms before they were asked for? Is such possible? Well, thinks so. That is what they do with what they call ‘anticipatory shipping’. Back in 2014, Amazon secured a patent for an algorithm-based system that ships goods before they are even ordered.
Amazon is already extremely efficient; imagine the effects of shipping goods before a shopping decision is finalised. But how does Amazon know what you want? They use a forecasting model based on prior Amazon activity. Factors such as time on the site, duration of views, links clicked and hovered over, shopping cart activity and wish lists are all taken into consideration. The algorithm also takes real-world information and factors into consideration.
What if the predictions are wrong? Amazon created a control system that is able to calculate whether it would be better to return the products to the plant or to offer discounts and promotions to customers in the area where the products are (always a lower value than the cost of returning the products to the plant). The idea is not so far-fetched. It allows the company offer customers great deals and keeps them happy. Also, the liquid stocks reduce costs and maintain complex logistics machinery. Amazon is constantly redefining supply chain management. From their planned drone delivery to go shop, they seek to give customers one thing they want – convenience! The results? A spike in sales volume and market capitalisation.
Amazon seems to understand and implement the key factor in business growth – maintaining leadership in today’s highly competitive business world is dependent on how innovative your business is. Leading businesses push the boundaries this was what BlackBerry missed. At its peak in September 2013, there were 85 million BlackBerry subscribers worldwide. And maintain their profitability through innovation.
However, BlackBerry has since lost its dominant position in the market due to the success of the Android and iOS platforms; the same numbers had fallen to 23 million as at March 2016. The reason is very simple; BlackBerry Limited took the desire of the market for granted. The world wanted touch screens, the company was stuck on the keyboard and therefore, Apple and Android out-innovated them and sent them out of the smartphone world. When they eventually learnt their lesson with the introduction of the BlackBerry 10, it was too late.
Innovation is a key factor in today’s business world. No business can thrive without it. So the question to you is how seriously do you take innovation? Innovation is the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unidentified or existing market needs.
This is accomplished through more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or business models. Innovation is about meeting unmet needs, filling gaps and catching up with human desire. To get it right you will have to learn to think ahead of the competition. Imagine what your service would be like if you could control every situation. Ideas like these set your mind in motion to find new ways, processes and models of service delivery. Don’t be fooled by the realities of today, much more is still possible. It is the responsibility of the business leader to find it.
If there was ever a time when ideas ruled the world, it is now. The business leader that will dictate the pace must, therefore, have a fierce commitment to research. Consider Alphabet, a world leader in innovation. The Company identifies and accesses breakthrough research through its active partnership with the scientific community. It funds over 250 academic research projects a year, publishes results on public databases such as arXiv, as well as on its own research site and engages about 30 top scholars, who spend sabbaticals at Google every year.
Often, top researchers come to stay. Google offers scientists such a unique research environment with unparalleled data sets, some of the best computing architecture in the world and the opportunity to continue to publish openly, that the company commands the attention of top-notch scholars. That’s commitment to research through collective innovation. Imagine the best brains in your field working with you directly to discover new possibilities in your industry. That’s how to out-pace the competition.
While you may not have the resources to bring in the best professors and equip them to co-innovate with you through research, you can create an environment that promotes playing with ideas. Staff can be encouraged to contact the CEO directly with whatever ideas they have and be rewarded for doing that. You can mount innovation boards where your staff can write down their ideas as soon as they hit them. And most of all, the CEO should be the ‘Chief Innovation Officer’ and get directly involved in finding new ways of delivering the company’s services.
The bottom line is, have a culture of innovation if you want to remain relevant. Make innovation your competitive edge.

SI Magazine

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