Innovation and adaptation

I occasionally lecture on this subject which I find endlessly fascinating, using a definition from Wikipedia -

Innovation is a new idea, or more-effective device or process. Innovation can be viewed as the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated needs, or existing market needs.

Wikipedia is itself a wonderful innovation which we now take for granted some 15 years after it was founded.

I try to distinguish between innovation and adaptation, using Shazam as an example.  It was very innovative when launched in 2002, if a little clunky on my brick of a mobile phone, but is now almost unrecognisable in its depth and sophistication as a result of constant adaptation and the arrival of smart phones.

When I ask for examples of innovation during my lectures, the vast majority of replies focus on technology and apps whether it's in music, banking or lifestyle.  

But the speed of innovation and perhaps the excitement of technology distracts us from what is happening elsewhere.

back to the future

And what is happening elsewhere is some exciting stuff relating to customer service.  

To some extent this is taking us back to a time when customer service rather than technology was a source of competitive advantage along with the possibility of having a face-to-face, more intimate relationship with the customer, rather than one mediated through a call centre or a smart phone.

but it just won't shake off,

I can use the subscription service at Lutyens and Rubinstein to deliver books to friends and loved ones solely by offering up some themes, e.g. travel, Brighton and food, before the lovely folks make a selection on my behalf and mail the books on a monthly basis, complete with a suitable card.

It is difficult to move around London without bumping into long lines of street food stalls and farmers' markets delivering all sorts of goodies to queues of folks keen to have Lebanese felafel for lunch or take home freshly baked bread. 

And for those of us who have watched the return of vinyl to record stores with something approaching awe and amazement, there is any amount of good news. My favourite recent example, borrowing from the approach taken by Recommended Records in the late seventies, allowed me to subscribe to the wonderful new Lail Arad LP, complete with signature, number and handwritten quote.

None of this level of service comes cheap and neither should it, given the amount of effort, expertise and sweat involved. At the same time, it is difficult to see how these types of business can be scaled up.  But perhaps that is no bad thing for the moment.

From here to there, with great customer service along the way.