Here’s a quick two-question quiz that I bet few of you will get right:
- Which company developed the first personal computer?
- Which company invented the first digital camera?
Believe it or not, Xerox developed the first personal computer, the Alto, way back in 1973. It actually had Ethernet networking, graphical user interface, icons, bit mapping, scalable type, a mouse, and a laser printer. But, being overly content with their revenue from renting copiers, Xerox never further developed the computer for commercial sale and ultimately ceded the market to the PC and Apple brands we know today.
Kodak, who dominated the photography market, also developed the first digital camera in 1975, but didn’t have the courage to accept and advance the impending change from the analog world to the digital one until 1991. By that point, the development curve had passed them by, and ultimately the company filed for bankruptcy in 2012.
Prospective clients often tell me that the best way to get new ideas for revenue generation is to get lots of smart people in a room, “brainstorm”, and innovate. My standard response is that the problem is not with a dearth of innovation; it is with a lack of insight and courage to move forward with the right ideas for development and implementation.
There are lots of innovative ideas flying around companies all the time. But, revenue generation is not for the faint-hearted. It requires courage to overcome the uncertainty endemic to innovative thought and make a change. It requires conviction to dedicate precious time and resources to a new idea, an unproven idea, or an idea that could alter a company’s future direction.
And, unfortunately, too many CEOs lack the courage to say “yes”.
One company came up with an interesting solution to reduce this fear, by spreading the risk of potential failure. Rhode Island based Rite-Solutions has set up an “idea stock market” called Mutual Fun on their internal website where anyone can post an idea and list it as a “stock”. Every employee is also given $10,000 in virtual currency to “invest” in ideas and can volunteer to work on project ideas in which they invest. If an idea garners enough support, the project is approved and everyone who supported it is given a share of the profits from the project. The result – In its first year alone, Mutual Fun accounted for 50 percent of the company’s new business growth. In addition, since the program began in 2005, it has generated more than 50 ideas, 15 of which have been launched — and those ideas now account for 20 percent of the company’s total revenue!
Are you too fearful to create new revenue for your company? Honestly? Perhaps it is time to take the first step towards giving your company permission to truly evaluate and finally move forward with those great innovative ideas that are consistent with your core value proposition.