Family businesses are willing to experiment. A desire to try new things, particularly in the entrepreneurial stage, is a trait found in many family business leaders. That doesn’t mean they take large risks or jump blindly into innovation, but rather that they may be willing to go against CONVENTIONAL THINKING, in pursuit of new products and processes. Within public companies, this experimentation is called “intrapreneurship,” as embodied by employees who see and implement new ways of doing things.
New York-based Welch Allyn, a family business that manufactures medical devices, embodies an experimental approach to innovation by soliciting ideas from its customers, employees, and the public at large, as stated on the company website:
“At Welch Allyn, we make new devices and products come to life through innovative ideas. Our engineers are continuously developing next generation solutions, but we know that people just like you are thinking up inventive and resourceful ideas all the time too.… In order to continue the creative cycle, we encourage you to submit your ideas to help us create products that are inspired by you to be used by you – our customers and partners.”
This openness to experimentation and innovation was established by company founder William G. Allyn, and it has helped the company achieve five decades of technical advances, sales growth, and industry recognition.
How could you tap into your customer base for more innovative ideas?
Joe Schmieder’s new book Innovation in the Family Business utilizes the IP from the Family Business Consulting Group team and includes case studies from successful family business ventures such as SC Johnson, Beretta, Mogi (producers of Kikoman), and others. This is the first book to focus on innovation in a family business setting.