Plight of Blockbuster Proves You Must Innovate or Die


In Indiana, we're blessed to have a culture of business innovation and entrepreneurial drive. This article from Hootsuite explains why businesses must never lose that passion for innovation.

When some companies stop innovating, it can literally kill them.

Remember Blockbuster?

Just 10 years ago, with 8,000 stores and $3 billion in annual revenue, Blockbuster was easily the planet’s biggest video chain. Today, after bankruptcy and massive closures, it’s limping along with 500 stores. And their days seem numbered.

What happened? Netflix happened. Redbox happened. Streaming video happened. The world and the technology surrounding how people like to watch stuff changed. Blockbuster didn’t.

And there are many other examples out there, of big brands who faced the same fate. The latest story making waves is that of RIM, formerly known as Blackberry, who—after years of struggling to stay afloat in the highly competitive smartphone market—announced this week they are looking at the possibility of selling off the company…

So to avoid this, I’ve embraced a few innovation strategies from some of the best business minds out there:

1. Let them chase rainbows

Give employees in-office time to explore their craziest ideas and passion projects. This concept is actually decades-old, but it’s still around because it’s effective. Major US corporation 3M’s unwritten “15-percent time” rule, for instance, has been around since 1948. It encourages its scientists and engineers to spend up to 15 percent of their working hours pursuing their own projects, even if they have nothing to do with their actual jobs. The program has resulted in the development of many of 3M’s top-selling products, including Scotch tape and the Post-it note.

2. Start a skunkworks

Have a secret innovation lab somewhere in your business. “Skunkworks,” is a small group within an organization that is given a high level of independence to research and develop secret projects, often in the spirit of radical innovation. Google’s skunkworks is their top-secret Google X Lab, which gave birth to Google Glass. Current Google projects that have emerged from the lab are a driverless car and Project Loon, “a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space,” that will give internet access to people in rural and remote areas.

Amazon has a similar group, called Lab 126, from which the Kindle was born. It’s reportedly now developing a 3D Kindle. And last year, LinkedIn launched its own unique skunkworks-type initiative called [in]cubator. Under the program, any employee at LinkedIn can, up to 4 times a year, pitch an idea to a panel of their bosses (which includes CEO Jeff Weiner). If approved, the person is granted up to three months of work time to turn it into a reality with a designated team.

3. Have Hackathons

Set aside days for employees to run wild with their best new ideas. Working in the technology industry for over a decade, I’ve seen firsthand that great ideas emerge when people feel free. They don’t tend to surface in high-pressure situations, like in boardrooms with bosses standing overhead. So the hackathon, or hack day, is a great way to facilitate creative brainstorming. This is a fairly casual, in-office event that can last anywhere from a day to a week. Employees come together to share great new ideas and ultimately pick the best ones to pursue further.

While Hackathons originally were events for developing new software technologies, many industries have embraced the hackathon for all-around brainstorming and innovation. One of the most interesting examples is Brainhack, a three-day hackathon aimed at fostering innovation in the field of brain science.

My company also holds Hoot-Hackathons, two-day events which allow employees to freely pitch ideas, work with new people, and build new things. These events foster a culture of innovation and gets people enthusiastic about new ideas. Plus, it doesn’t cost a lot.

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