It is very interesting to see company after company add innovation programs to their agendas. I don’t mean paying lip service to innovation – I mean really meaningful programs. We all know the success of P&G’s programs, and following them many companies have embraced “programs” around innovation – most of which have been successful.
Pitney Bowes is one such company. It believes that innovation is core to how they build the creative and financial capacity to invest in new market opportunities and new ways to deliver products and services. That’s why they’ve chosen to increase our innovation spending in this economic downturn. In 2008, Pitney Bowes generated just under US$900 million in free cash flow on $6.3 billion in sales. As it became clear that a recession was coming, and that it was going to be deep and potentially long, they realized they had the financial capacity to continue to invest in the business. They saw the recession as an opportunity to increase our innovation investment as a percentage of revenue so that we could be even better positioned to take advantage of market opportunities.
It will be fascinating to see how the return on investment of many of these programs turns out. Especially those investments made in the midst of a downturn. My guess is that they will be game-changing for most, successful for others, and will fail for a very few. Culture change, which goes hand-in-hand with innovation, is a catalyst for “turning the titanic” at any time.