Here is a cool article by a Guy Kawasaki -- a columnist for Forbes and venture capitalist. He's been blogging for a very short time and has many page views. (uh over 150,000).
I think he has some good points but it boils to "thinking outside of the box." However, that old term is precisely that -- old.
He elevates true innovation to be even more important than quality. "Don't worry, be crappy," he says. I would argue that there is a balance to keep. To be an innovator you must be perceived as a quality provider in order to attract the early adopters. However, early adopters know that there are inevitably "glitches." As long as "glitches" don't turn into "gulches" that keep the product from behaving in its intended manner. Vaporware doesn't help anyone.
He brings back that good old target marketing we learned in business school. Emphasizes persistence. My favorite thought of his has to be this:
Think digital, act analog. Thinking digital means that companies should use all the digital tools at its disposal--computers, web sites, instruments, whatever--to create great products. But companies should act analog--that is, they must remember that the purpose of innovation is not cool products and cool technologies but happy people. Happy people is a decidedly analog goal.
True innovation is exciting. It is done by can do thinkers. It is done by people who are willing to take a risk.
Innovation is as difficult to predict as when you will fall in love or when you will get over an illness. Like love or illness, however, you can foster an environment conducive to innovation. Just as you can foster an environment where you're likely to fall in love or likely to get well.
I'm adding Guy's blog to my bloglines account. I'm very impressed. His article is shock therapy for those who are afraid to innovate although it shouldn't be taken too literally.