OC Reilly Blog: How Long Can You Wait to Innovate?

By Vicki L. White, Executive Director, Business Operations, OC Reilly Inc.


(July 5, 2015)–It used to be that, to be the first to try a new idea or technology, one needed to be either very comfortable with risk or rich enough to not have to worry whether it paid off or not.

These “early adopters” traditionally have served a useful role in business, being the first to suffer the pain or enjoy the fruits of a new approach, and therefore paving the way for others to follow on and enjoy a lower level of risk. And while this basic formula promises to remain in place for the foreseeable future, the landscape is nonetheless changing, even if it’s ever-so-slightly.

For administrators of any type of business – including health care systems – continues to inch up to a new basic question: How long can you wait to innovate?

In the May/June edition of Supply Chain Management Review magazine, Editorial Director Bob Trebilcock writes, “As supply chain managers we are challenged year in and year out to figure out new, innovative ways to improve our operations. We have to translate educated guesses about what’s next into new investments in our processes. Such may be the case with robotics, 3-D printing and additive manufacturing, and investments in new mobile technologies.”

Trebilcock then references The 2015 MHI Annual Industry Report: Supply Chain Innovation – Making the Impossible Possible, issued by Deloitte Consulting, saying, “Only 35 percent of companies are early adopters that expect to deploy these innovations before their competitors.” He quotes one of the reports authors as stating, “But by delaying now, a company may be forced by the competition to take action. That may have worked in the past, but in this new environment, I really think the companies that adopt these emerging technologies now may get a sustainable competitive advantage.”

Ideas and technologies that looked, sounded, and performed like new three years ago may feel outdated today. Bold new concepts, on the other hand, can either pan out to achieve great and sustainable success, or could become just as obsolete and outdated even more quickly. Risk remains inherent in any innovation.

Supply chain managers may indeed make the impossible possible. But the smart ones know how to balance risk and reward. The basic question is changing, however. It’s a question worth asking yourself, and perhaps worth seeking out an independent, objective opinion in the process.

How long can you wait to innovate?