Before the internet, most innovation took place in small communities, with isolated breakthroughs eventually spreading throughout the world. Today, however, global business innovation is the norm.
Business owners pursuing growth may want to make a habit of looking around them—and not just at local competitors. How other companies around the world do business can affect your organization.
I spoke to two business owners to understand how they tap into global business innovation to power their companies.
Stepping Out of Your Communal Bubble
Fabrizio Moreira is the owner of The Moreira Organization, a nonprofit that develops world leaders. He has learned that everything a business owner touches involves a global team of talent—from manufacturing to storing data in the cloud.
“This global talent pool means you're competing with a lot of innovators who you ignore at your peril," Moreira says.
—Erik Bullen, CEO, MageMail
He seeks out intelligence on global business innovation by observing similar organizations operating in other countries, and finding ways to plug in and work with them.
Erik Bullen is CEO of MageMail and is actively involved in the start-up and innovation community, mentoring and advising for programs such as Techstars, MassChallenge and LaunchX. His ideation is regularly informed by other cultures, markets and industries.
“Many emerging markets are leapfrogging established markets because of need-based innovation and fewer existing infrastructure constraints," Bullen says. “Paying attention to what these markets are doing can help you identify opportunities in your own market as well as threats that may be down the line."
Peeking Into the World Outside
How does Bullen pay attention, exactly? Using secondary research is valuable and necessary, he says, but he also goes into new markets and performs his own field and design research with an interdisciplinary team.
“Nothing beats being in the field, where one can observe, communicate, experience and challenge assumptions, leading to a richer understanding that generates, informs and shapes new ideas," he says. "We're able to shape the future, not just react to it, and we are more competitive with our products, services and business models."
What can business owners do to take advantage of global business innovation as Moreira and Bullen have? In addition to proactive research, consider proposing a strategy and focus your lens tightly.
“Determine what type of innovation challenge you want to tackle," Bullen suggests. "Do you need to solve a problem or test a solution? Your approach and process will differ."
Next, challenge your assumptions and prepare to refine your strategy.
“The odds are high that your amazing idea is not unique in the world, but often, the winners are not the people who come up with the great ideas originally, but are those who can excel at execution in areas such as design, go-to-market, production or brand building," says Bullen.
Adapting Ideas Appropriately
It also helps to understand how to translate examples of global business innovation—especially if you are bringing a foreign idea into a domestic market or expanding a local product or service's reach.
This may require ongoing participation from employees and partners with experience developing new products and services in both markets.
Building a Global-Thinking Team
Surrounding yourself with a variety of perspectives can also help you apply fresh concepts to your specific business.
“Youth and diversity are the best sources of innovation on any team," Moreira says. “Business owners need to collaborate with people who aren't stuck in their ways."
For many young people who have spent at least half their lives online, viewing innovation in a global context is second nature. Their approaches can help more seasoned business owners make the leap.
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