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One of the hardest lessons to learn is how to innovate your way out of obsolescence. Whatever your business, you must plan for innovation to remain viable in your marketplace.

History is filled with good businesses that have failed, which can mostly be attributed to the failure to see how technology requires rapid change to the status quo.

Remember Blockbuster, which once boasted $5 billion in sales and more than 9,000 stores?

Netflix and other streaming video services have completely replaced the video rental business in most of the country. Had Blockbuster paid attention to the changes in technology, they could have found a way to quickly sell their inventory and convert to streaming video, but by the time they realized it Netflix had taken over.

Netflix started out as a mail-order video rental company, and were able to innovate their model to accommodate streaming video. Yet they still provide mail-order video rentals for movies not available on streaming video.

If you think about it, your business is not so different. Look at printing services – that industry has changed dramatically as well. How much of your printing is still done by a professional print house vs. using the Internet to submit your artwork and get printing done at a fraction of the cost?

This is a lesson in turning obstacles into opportunities. It starts with the management team, including the CEO or owner of the business, and trickles down to everyone else in the company.

In every instance where businesses fail it can be traced back to the lack of leadership. You must be aware of obstacles and use innovative ways to change direction when necessary to keep customers happy.

Napoleon Hill put it best when he said, “Life itself is just one long series of mastery of difficulties and obstacles. The measure of (people) may be taken very accurately by the extent to which they adapt themselves to their environment and make it their business to accept responsibility for every adversity with which they meet, whether the adversity grows out of a cause within their control or not.”

As time moves forward remember that Buckminster Fuller created the “Knowledge Doubling Curve.”

He noticed that until 1900 human knowledge doubled approximately every century. By the end of World War II knowledge was doubling every 25 years.

Today average human knowledge is doubling every 13 months. According to IBM, the build-out of the “Internet of things” will lead to the doubling of knowledge every 12 hours.

If you wish to stay in business, meet with your management team often — at least once a month — to get feedback on the pulse of how your business is perceived by your customers. Brainstorm ideas to innovate your business to adapt and stay relevant to them in our rapidly changing environment.

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Randy Martinsen is the president/CEO of BudgetWorks Inc., a marketing and business consulting firm, and brand partner for Nerium International. He can be reached at 707-206-6443 or randym@budgetworks.net.

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