Is Time Running Out on Your Company’s Big Ideas?

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Tom Monahan
Tom Monahan



Say you’re in retail. Your shoe department is your biggest draw. Brilliantly creative, you don’t want to tamper with that success.

Maybe you’re a travel agent. Your fall golf excursions are very profitable. When you introduced them, there was nothing like them. No need to work on that area of your game.

Whatever business you’re in it’s very easy to subscribe to the “If it ain’t broke...” philosophy.

Now, look at the pharmaceutical industry. They have their equivalents of the traffic-building shoe department and the profitable golf trips. Their franchise drugs. But for them, the clock is ticking. When the patent on this big seller runs out, they lose their edge and get knocked off faster than you can say, “Give me a generic.”

As the patent expiration time approaches, the drug companies work feverishly to develop the next generation of chemical compound for that ailment. And quite often, they do. They come up with the next advancement for that category; It addresses more symptoms, you take it less frequently, there’s longer-lasting relief.

The point is this. The ever-shortening burning fuse creates an urgency that the drug marketers can’t ignore. They must make major improvements to products that are already very successful.

Most companies in other industries are not working feverishly to develop the next generation of their most successful products or services. Oh, they might be working on their next blockbuster. But they’re usually not rethinking the winners. They aren’t willing to tamper at all with current blockbusters.

Maybe, they need their patent to expire.

I mean, look at the drug companies. They have years of development and regulatory approval, and different process, standards and timetables (by every country they market in, I might add), and they do it. They think long term. They break the mold of their winners so when the clock gets reset, they can have the edge again.

With no clock ticking, most companies take their little old time. Yet, they have no patent protection. Anyone can knock them off. And they do. Where is the edge?

Tom Peters has preached “constant innovation” for so long it’s now almost a devalued concept. But the reality is that today it is more urgent than ever. Your patent protection isn’t going to run out next week or next year. You never had it.

Topics: Creativity

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