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Innovation Insights
by Stephen Shapiro

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Innovation for Mid-Sized Companies

I was recently interviewed by Chuck Leddy for the National Center for the Middle Market.

We discussed, as you may guess, what middle market companies need to do in order to innovate and why it is critical.

In addition to a written article (where I answer 9 questions), the page also includes a much longer audio recording of our interview.

Here’s are the first 3 questions (and my response to the first 2):

Why is innovation necessary for middle market companies?
Innovation is necessary because the world is changing around us. If no one else decided to innovate, then we wouldn’t have to. But we have new entrants coming into the market, we have new technologies, we have disruptors, and your competition is constantly changing the game. If you’re not keeping up, you’re actually going backwards. So innovation is necessary, whether you’re a mom-and-pop shop, a middle market company, or a multi-billion dollar Fortune 10 company.

How can middle market firms better understand what innovations their customers might want?
The best thing you can do is actually observe customers. I would say “be like Indiana Jones,” put on your fedora and get out there to observe. If you look at it from a cultural anthropology or ethnography perspective, you can see what customers are doing and try to figure out what problems they’re having.

Another way is to map the client’s processes. Do you actually understand how the client does business with you? What are the things customers do on a regular basis? Figure out what you can do to improve their processes instead of worrying about your own processes. 

Do middle market companies have a disadvantage compared to larger companies when they seek to innovate?

You can read the entire article and listen to the audio recording by visiting the center’s website.