Innovation Doesn’t Have to Be Sexy

This great post from Hugh about his current work and thinking about Dell Computers reminded me of the below post I wrote back in 2005. Despite their new challenges, I still find it relevant to their future (and every business).

The deeper I go into the development of my Brickyard ideas, the more valuable (and crucial) I believe it is to sustained bottom line growth of business.

I’ll admit it is not nearly as sexy a strategy as a new technology product or an incredibly creative marketing initiative but… don’t be fooled that focusing on your Brickyard won’t equal cash.

In a recent Fortune Magazine article that profiled Dell Computers Inc. as the most admired company, the author questions Michael Dell about the perception that Dell is not an innovator (particularly vs. the deserved hype surrounding Apple and its latest innovations).

“I raise this question with Michael Dell and ask him why he even cares whether people think Dell innovates, “I don’t care as much as I used to,” he says. “It’s complete nonsense though. I mean, come on, let’s see… innovation: Business processes, supply chain, change in industry, customer value totally different, change the whole cycle in which technology is brought to market – well, there may be a few innovations in there.”

Innovation is too closely linked to “cool” new products or services…the trendiest/edgiest thinking.

Continually improving your supply chain and manufacturing processes that sustain growth while your competitors stumble over themselves is not only innovative but turns those Brickyard bricks into the gold variety.

Don’t focus on improving the expected parts of your deliverables at your own risk.

Waiting In Line

This post from Seth Godin got me thinking about all the bad things that come from waiting in line.

My local Citibank has 12 teller windows. I have never been there when more than 3 had tellers were behind them. I have never been there when there was not a long line.

There is a large chain of “super” Drug Stores here in New York called Duane Reade. They all have approx. 8-10 cash registers and I have never been there when more than 2 had staff behind them (Most of the time it is only 1). This is so universally true at every Duane Reade that I now refer to every other company that creates this illogical and customer maddening experience as the “Duane Reade of _____”

In both cases, managers are around that observe these long lines and NEVER rally other staff to clear it or jump behind the register/window themselves.

Now, I am not the most patient person in the world. But, I do not think that anyone enjoys waiting in a line up to 10-20 minutes. Is that just the way it has to be to keep expenses down?

My local Whole Foods Market has over 35 cash registers (all staffed) and a person at the head of the line that continually directs people to the next open register. The line is often over 50 people long and I have never waited more than 5 minutes.

There is a hotel in Germany that picks you up from the airport, lets you order dinner from the car so it is waiting for you and they check you into the hotel when you get to your room.

How much effort does it really take to focus on that most important moment when your customers are about to pay you? Why would anything else come first?

Are there any times when your customers are “waiting in line” to use your product or service? If there is, the most important big idea/innovation for you to execute this year would be to fix it.