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Expert Advice for Medium and Midsize Businesses

Lessons from the Winter Games: The Innovation Advantage for SMBs

Rudolph Lukez
Director, ERP Product Marketing, Oracle

It is easy to view this year’s Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, as not only a series of top athletic competitions on snow and ice but also as a platform for multinational large companies. Between runs, heats and podiums, media of all types will be promoting many large corporate brands from multiple Fortune 500 global sponsors.

But there is an important perspective often lost during these games that is applicable to small-to medium-size businesses (SMBs) with lessons learned from any of these massive events: the importance of innovation.

Over the decades, I have personally witnessed how innovation has changed many if not all the sports represented at this year’s winter games. I am lucky to live near several major alpine and Nordic ski areas in the Rocky Mountains and recreating on snow and ice has always been an important part of my life. Every time I venture onto any type of frozen water I experience the positive benefits of innovation for outdoor pursuits.

The key byproduct of this continuous innovation is improving one’s competitive edge with increased agility, more speed and better performance. All the metrics are positive and tend upward.

Isn’t this what every SMB needs?

Remarkable and Plentiful Innovations

Over the years innovations have delivered plastic ski boots for alpine racers, wind tunnel testing for bobsleds, skiers and figure skaters, metal components for skis, aerodynamic fabrics for speed skaters, and unique carbon fiber protrusions for snowboarders. Other innovations involving timing, video simulation, snow making, and ice management (cue a Zamboni) are equally important and have evolved through innovation and technology across many winter games. The innovations list is long and growing.

Skiers buying new skis are not doing it just because it is cool or different. They are buying because they want to leverage next-generation technologies. Stop in any mountain town antiques shop and you will see alpine skis made from wood with leather bindings. They worked great 75 years ago; nobody uses them today; now they languish on ski condominium walls as quaint and quiet reminders of old discarded technologies.

Innovation for Modern SMBs

It is a similar story for modern SMB leaders.  These individuals – like today’s winter games skiers – are deploying tomorrow’s enterprise capabilities today because they are focused on strategic value (not only the tactical mission) for their company. They also strive for peer and media recognition as leaders in their industry and profession. Just as athletes in South Korea are going for the gold, these modern SMB leaders are determined to stand on the podium of their industry.

They are reaching for this goal with innovative products - just like the winter games athletes we will be watching over the next few weeks. Like these amazing athletes, the drive for gold is both for themselves and their team.

Luckily, today is the golden age of innovation for the enterprise management of SMBs. Every SMB leader can not only leverage the cloud (rather than last century on-premises systems) but deploy a complimentary plethora of new innovations. These rapidly evolving technologies include adaptive and artificial intelligence (AI), blockchains, the internet of things (IoT), machine learning (ML) and chatbots.

These technologies – driven by seemingly insane rates of innovations and intensive investments over the last few years, and in some cases mere months, are not only interesting concepts or playful constructs. They are new game changers used today for fostering new services and products extending innovation at long established companies and garage-based startups across all SMBs. New disruptors from tomorrow that have arrived today to exponentially expand marketplace change and chaos.

Collectively, these innovations are additive across rapidly accelerating parallel tracks. Most importantly, it is designed first for a cloudy world with little interest in the older systems of yesteryear. The arrival of these innovations over the last few years is increasing the pace of everything.

A Bobsled Team for the Corner Office

Now consider the following (and unlikely) Winter Games event.

Bobsled teams each only comprised of a company’s CEO, CFO, COO and CIO compete. With all the advancement in materials, engineering, and design, would this team select a bobsled from a last century Olympics or instead purse a modern 21st century sled that uses the latest innovations, the best engineering and world-class manufacturing processes?

Unless the team doesn’t want a chance of winning or maybe just doesn’t care, you know the answer without too much thought. In so many respects it is a very dumb question.

Which promulgates this simple question: why would any SMB embrace the past when tomorrow is here today?

Gain your competitive advantage. Take our quick, two-minute assessment and see how you compare with the Inc. 5000, some of the fastest growing companies in North America today.

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