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The Innovation Cycle: Where Are We?

(December 2009) posted on Tue Nov 24, 2009

Invention extension? Functional substitution? Find out what these concepts mean and how they apply to the screen-printing industry.

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By Mark A. Coudray

For years we’ve been hearing about how much excess capacity exists in the market. We’re about to find out just how much. The weak won’t make it through this winter. The playing field will be much different come spring. In the second part of this column, published exclusively on, I will lay out the battlefield, discuss who the players are, and examine what we can do to stay alive and to actually prosper. It’ll be the functional blueprint to help re-energize your business and to help you make the transition from the declining analog business model to the more flexible, adaptive, rapid-response digital model.



PART 2 - A ScreenWeb Exclusive!

Extending the Innovation Cycle: Ideas on Competing in a Changing World
Part 1 of this column introduced the concept of the Innovation Cycle. I outlined that graphics screen printing is entering the Functional Substitution phase of the cycle. This is traditionally viewed as the declining phase prior to demise. As grim as this sounds, there are things we can do to extend our business and position in the market.

Every company in each market has its own, unique situation, so there are no general quick fixes here. You’ll need to apply the concepts to your own situation. I welcome your questions or comments about what I’m presenting.

From the outset it’s important to keep the situation in perspective. You’re delivering goods and services using specific processes—for instance, screen-printed T-shirts or die-cut P-O-P displays. This is product- and process-focused. When the market or technology shifts away from product and process we become vulnerable. We need to go deeper to define our value so we can continue to survive and potentially even prosper.

I’ve mentioned before that we’re all in the graphic-communications business. That’s it. We can extend this further and say we’re in the marketing business as well, although our focus is pretty narrow to truly be considered a marketing company. These two perspectives provide the launching point to which we can redefine our efforts.

The single greatest assets you bring to your customers and clients are three fold:
• Your relationship with the market, your customers and clients.
• Distribution of your goods or services to many companies or individuals.
• An expert understanding of how your goods or services are used to the maximum potential for your market.


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