Nov 18, 2019

4 Characteristics that Foster Innovation in B2B Organizations

The gifted brand strategist (and one-time “Baddest Man on the Planet”) Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” How true that is, especially when said punch comes from somebody of the stature that is Iron Mike. My teeth rattle in my head just thinking about it.

But, did you know that YouTube’s original business plan was built around it being some kind of video dating service? Or that Shopify only exists because the snowboard manufacturing company that founded it (“Snowdevil”) realized that there had to be a better way to do e-Commerce on the web? What do these now iconic brands have in common that enabled such a drastic shift in focus? What can we learn from them as marketers?  

It took 90 years for Abercrombie to move from being a sporting goods shop and outfitter to a mall stalwart, clothing a generation of 20-somethings. However, YouTube’s and Shopify’s transition happened relatively overnight in comparison. What qualities and circumstances do companies like YouTube and Spotify possess that allowed them to pivot so quickly?

A vision that goes beyond four walls

Myopic companies and those that lead them are this generation’s buggy whip manufacturers. Organizations that plod along with a singular focus on doing what they’ve always done without consideration of the potential benefits afforded to them by a global economy and unrelenting innovation are seriously limiting themselves and the future of their company. Companies that can’t (or won’t) evolve may find themselves on a slippery slope to irrelevance.

Humility at the top

Leadership that surrounds itself with people who not only bring value, but also feel free to make suggestions and ask questions in an encouraging open environment are essential in “what if” thinking. C-level leaders who are open to suggestions —even those that may require them to rethink a strategy they may have actually created and are quite happy with — foster a culture where big ideas seem to percolate more often than organizations built on a rigid, singular vision.

A commitment to innovation

There’s nothing wrong with doing one thing and desiring to be the best in the world at it. Even those organizations with an extremely tight focus on doing their respective “one thing” that seek and welcome the benefits afforded by innovation can implement change at a micro level with huge returns. In some industries, even an incremental change driven by innovation in a seemingly mundane process can provide new competitive advantages and perhaps a spark for something bigger.


Believing that your people are capable of bigger things and are able to learn from their mistakes sets the table for a culture that celebrates success, learns from failure and attracts (and retains) the best and brightest.

Nelson Mandela once said, “I never lose — I either win or I learn.” It is this type of attitude that lights the way for those organizations that realize their visions can’t be limited by their own four walls and are willing to find better ways of getting the job done. And as an added bonus, we all get to keep our teeth. Sorry, Champ!

Related Articles:

3 Reasons B2B Companies Should Consider Innovation

About the Author:

Steve DePuys – Group Account Director

From highly regulated industries such as healthcare and financial services, to the most complex B2B environments, Steve continually delivers strategies and solutions designed to grow market share , promote sales enablement and help clients successfully navigate the ever-changing B2B marketing landscape.

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