Getting Out Of The Rut

Feel like you're trudging back to the same-old same old this Monday morning? Lucky for us there are several inspiring pieces on innovation and innovators to ponder in the wake of anything more pressing than "The Week on AdFreak" and "Uniqlo's U.S. Positioning Plan" leading the websites of our favorite ad trades.

Age's Natalie Zmuda takes a look at how some major marketers -- General Electric, Procter & Gamble, Levi's and Coca-Cola to name a few -- are developing innovations in emerging markets such as India and China and then importing them to the developed world in a concept dubbed "reverse innovation."

Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth professor Vijay Govindarajan, tells Zmuda that reverse innovation will not only alter the way companies do business but also presents immense marketing challenges. Govindarajan, GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt and Chris Trimble, also a professor at Dartmouth, introduced the concept in a Harvard Business Review article, "How GE is Disrupting Itself," in October 2009.

"It's logical to see where a poor man wants a rich man's products. Reverse innovation is the exact opposite," he says. "Why would a rich man ever want a poor man's products? It requires some transformational thinking for marketing and advertising."

GE developed a cheap, portable, battery-operated electrocardiogram machine in India that's now being used by first responders in the U.S., for example, and Coca-Cola's Minute Maid Pulpy -- now a billion-dollar brand -- was developed in its Shanghai R&D center.

If you're mumbling to yourself, "That's just great but I don't have a Shanghai R&D center to dream up my ticket out of this sweaty commute," consider the four "one-hit wonders" profiled by Jeff May in the Wall Street Journal. If you've ever wondered what became of the wizards behind Magnetic Poetry, Silly Bandz, the Baby on Board sign and The Bumpit (and who hasn't?), click through.

Hold on a minute, there. The Bumpit? Turns out it's an insert that props up teased-back hair to give it extra loft. Its inventor, Kelly Fitzpatrick-Bennett, is now Big Happie Hair's Chief Executive Optimist. The former hair stylist got her inspiration from one of adland's own, Donny Deutsch, whose "The Big Idea" had an episode in which the chairman of Deutsch, Inc. talked about finding something you love to do and using that to come up with a money-making venture. May tells us that Fitzpatrick-Bennett "watched the program three nights in a row and read through a list of recommended books on start-ups."

But as Bumpit sales have declined -- from a peak of about a million units a month a few years ago to the current 20,000 or so -- Fitzpatrick-Bennett is also looking for bargains in rental properties and foreclosed homes.

Jeff DeGraff, clinical professor of management and organizations at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, would probably agree with Fitzpatrick-Bennett's approach to success. Susan Tompor tell us in the Detroit Free-Press that he believes that an individual who wants to move in a new direction should not just have a single strategy. He's fond of the sound bite "take multiple shots on goal," in fact.

DeGraff, a founder of creativity lab Innovatrium who has worked with Coca-Cola, Pfizer and Apple and is billed as the most famous innovation guru you never heard of, has created a new PBS show called "Innovation You."

The PBS venture is his way to "practice what I preach and 'creativize' my career," he says. People, like corporations, need to try out a few ideas and then learn from experience and experiments, he tells Torpor. And if you want to re-create your life, you cannot simply hang around people who are not doing the same.

Maybe it's too late to get rid of those slugs you call your pals, but Barbara Haislip takes a look at some of the attributes that budding entrepreneurs possess -- curiosity, leadership, conscientiousness -- and suggests ways to foster them in another WSJ piece that's part of a package on entrepreneurship this morning. Things to develop? Emotional stability, observation skills, creativity, learning to deal with setbacks and the ability to meet deadlines.

We're particularly working on that last one.

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