Expert: Innovation is key to success

Businesses must offer what others don’t, workshop participants hear

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

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Is your company ahead of the game or not?

Fail to come up with innovative and original ideas, and your business just might fade away, said Nigel Moore, one of several guest speakers at a Thursday workshop for local businesses. About 35 representatives and owners of small companies showed up at the Business Innovation Workshop, held at Clark College’s east Vancouver satellite campus.

The purpose of the event was to match Southwest Washington businesses with local and state resources to help them grow, said Bonnie Moore, director of business services with the Columbia River Economic Development Council, which hosted the workshop on innovation.

Nigel Moore of Impact Washington defined “innovation” as the hottest buzzword among businesses these days.

“Innovation is meaningful uniqueness,” said Moore, chief operating officer of the Mukilteo-based nonprofit, which focuses on helping Washington manufacturers become more competitive globally.

“It’s something that’s different; that you can charge more for,” he said. “It’s something that nobody else has.”

Of course, everyone thinks of Apple when it comes to innovation, but the term also can apply to product updates and new services that solve problems, Moore said.

Customers don’t always know what they want, said Moore, who encouraged business leaders to take the lead when it comes to developing new products. Moore backed up the advice with a quote from early American automaker Henry Ford, who said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they’d have said faster horses.”

Moore attributed Ford’s early success to radical innovation, which has also fueled Apple’s success.

“Nobody asked for an iPad or an iPod,” he said. “Apple innovated those.”

Moore said innovation is within the reach of any company with leadership that’s willing to adjust its mind-set.

“Why not reboot and restart,” Moore asked. “Why not re-invent yourself and get back on track?”

Business resources

In addition to Impact Washington’s presentation, workshop attendees learned about options for small and innovative businesses to apply for federal funding and tax credits. They also received information on how to protect intellectual property, and participated in a business panel discussion.

The Columbia River Economic Development Council often helps local businesses connect with the participants at Thursday’s workshop, Bonnie Moore said.

“The message is really that there are resources available to help businesses grow,” she said.