In praise of innovation

Look up the word innovate in the dictionary and you’ll find it means “to introduce new methods, devices, etc.”

But not every successful company has introduced a new method, product or service to the marketplace. There are plenty of examples of prosperous companies that have built their customer base on the simple principles of quality, value and/or exceptional customer service.

There are also countless examples of highly innovative companies that have fallen hard and fast. Think of all the defunct dot-coms that unabashedly threw their concepts out on the Web for the world to scrutinize.

But there’s something heroic about the failed entrepreneur who risked everything to take his or her innovation to market. That coffee shop that couldn’t make it on Main Street just doesn’t bring the same sentiment.

Four friends come to mind who, in the last two years, gave up lucrative careers and risked their families’ and friends’ wealth to join or found dot-com ventures that now lie in a cyberspace graveyard. They are struggling with debt as they search for ways to support themselves and their families.

One waits for his first child to be born as he lives, jobless, on his family’s farm. In one year, he risked and lost $1 million on a Web site concept he believed in. Do we write this off as eccentric stupidity? Most wouldn’t. The timing may have been wrong, but the idea had a lot of potential.

I know he and many others will recover, not because they will find secure jobs in corporate America, but because they will try again and again until they find an economy and marketplace that are more accepting of their ideas.

That perseverance is what we are celebrating in the section in this issue on SBN‘s third annual Innovation in Business Awards.

All of these companies have found success by turning their innovative ideas into sound business models. Some are in the rocky high-tech industry, some in more traditional industries, like public relations and marketing and overnight shipping. The common bond among all the winners this year is that they overcame some degree of trial and error to achieve their dreams.

Read their stories and find inspiration. Connie Swenson ([email protected]) is editor of SBN Magazine.