Highly regarded political pollster Frank Luntz calls innovation a key term for 21st century corporate and political communication.
Packaging companies realize the importance of innovation, because the concept translates into dollars. So they employ vice presidents of marketing and innovation, directors of client innovation, chief innovation officers, and search teams looking for the mavericks - often anti-establishment people, the best and brightest who may possess ideas that can be pushed through the corporation.
Firms are spending millions of dollars to open innovation centers, idea labs where processors meet with customers and brain trusts can combine. Consumer goods makers are reaching out via Web sites, like Kraft Foods Inc.'s www.innovatewithkraft.com, to search for ideas.
But is it enough?
Putting innovation in dollar terms is a great starting point. Still, a corporation's collective consciousness can be the biggest stumbling block to driving innovation. Levels of bureaucracy may hinder employees' willingness to step forward and share ideas.
Is your firm embracing innovation and creating a culture where employees feel free to share?
One source told me that her firm had to learn to stop talking to the wrong people.
``What we advocate, and what's been successful for us, is having a direct communication to the marketing people, to the innovation team, to the people driving the actual project,'' she said.
Over my past few weeks of travel, I've spent time listening to consumer goods companies define innovation from their own perspective. I've heard large global packaging firms promise to back new ideas all the way to the factory floor, where plastics machines are pumping out the latest in packaging technology.
Moreover, innovation should make the shareholders squeal with delight over the returns it provides. It's the ultimate balance, but one that can be achieved if an organization's leaders embrace innovation and aggressively push it from the top down. Once it's supported at the top level, the innovative idea needs to be followed closely and nurtured carefully to make it through the chains of command.
Putting innovation in dollar terms for a company's employees makes it tangible and real. Also, employees should receive incentives to share their ideas. Deadlines should be followed to get the idea from concept stage into development and production. And once the innovative idea makes it to the consumer, let employees know whether and how it made a difference. After all, consumers are the ultimate test.
As one source pointed out, what drives consumption boils down to great form and function.
DeRosa is an Akron-based Plastics News staff reporter whose beats include packaging.