Innovation is Key to Survival and Growth

By Prof. Enrique Soriano

One way to think about innovation is to explore the “sayings” offered by Dr. Spencer Johnson (1998) in his bestselling book “Who Moved My Cheese?” Please read the book and act on the sayings, especially the ones I’ve picked and listed below, as I believe they support the idea of innovation:

The Handwriting On the Wall

  • Change Happens. They keep moving the cheese.
  • Anticipate Change. Get ready for the cheese to move.
  • Monitor Change. Smell the cheese often so you know when it is getting old.
  • Adapt to change quickly. The quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you can enjoy new cheese.
  • Move with the cheese.
  • Enjoy Change. Savor the Adventure and enjoy the taste of new cheese.
  • Be ready to change quickly and enjoy it again. They keep moving the cheese
  • Move with the cheese and enjoy it.

Wikipedia defines Innovation as a change in the thought process for doing something, or the useful application of new inventions or discoveries. The goal of innovation is positive change–to make someone or something better. Innovation leading to increased productivity is the fundamental source of increasing wealth in an economy.

If we want to make people continually buy our products and services, we need to care about paying fair wages to our employees and the quality of the goods, supplies, materials, and equipment we sell. We also have to take into account the impact of our actions on the environment. We have to ask: Is it a sustainable enterprise? If not, how can we creatively make it so? What should we do to make a difference as a business?

We are challenged with redefining everything – our products, our processes, and our services—to be more aligned with sustaining life on our planet. Can we deliver fresh ideas? If yes, we are innovative and we can be assured of profit and success in our enterprise.

If the problem is how we measure success, why don’t we just change the way we measure it? We’ve all been brought up to accept the “fact” that we deal with our social issues in a nonprofit manner, and our financial concerns in a for-profit world. But once we change this mindset, the opportunities to combine both are tremendous. This is not a nonprofit advocacy. It is simply placing a third variable in the formula. In business, we make decisions based on price, quality, or speed. The third factor has something to do with innovation in terms of impact on the community. It makes it more interesting and complex.

For instance, in printing a book, do we consider the kind of print paper that we use? Does it contain 100% post-consumer fiber, is it certified eco-friendly, processed chlorine free and FSC recycled? For each tone used instead of virgin paper, how many trees did we save? How much pound of air emissions did we reduce? How much pounds of solid waste did we reduce? How many gallons of water did we reduce? As printers, do we work with paper mills that are environmentally responsible, that do not source fiber from endangered forests, and that are third party certified? Do we share good practices with other printers? Do we have waste prevention and recycling programs? The answers to these questions demand innovative ideas.

Our goal is not only to innovate, but to have a good time doing it, and to make a difference. You can change the story by steadily replacing the outdated profit maximizing business culture with a triple-bottom-line business model. Is innovation difficult? Just think of Tolkien’s book, “The Lord of the Rings.” As Hunter Lovins puts it: “Two fun-loving, unassuming, scared little hobbits took on an awesome task. They didn’t know where they were going, but in the end, all the kings, warriors, and wizards stood by as the little people saved the world.”

Innovation is about ordinary people exhibiting innovation and extraordinary courage. All we have to do when we are scared to innovate is choose to redefine the pounding of our hearts as “inner applause.”




Prof Enrique Soriano is a World Bank/IFC Governance Consultant, Senior Advisor of Post and Powell Singapore and the Executive Director of Wong + Bernstein, a research and consulting firm in Asia that serves family businesses and family foundations. He was formerly Chair of the Marketing Cluster at the ATENEO Graduate School of Business in Manila, and is currently a visiting Senior Fellow of the IPMI International School, Jakarta. 

He is an associate member of the Singapore Institute of Directors (SID) and an advisor to business families worldwide, a sought after governance speaker at conferences, and book author, more than 200 articles and publications, including two best-selling Family Business books (Ensuring Your Family Business Legacy 2013 and 2015). You can read Prof Soriano’s business articles for free at