What Separates Top Innovators In The Middle Market From Their Peers


by Zach Strauss

Successful innovation in the middle market is a balance of walking a conservative tight-rope and taking calculated risks that may require venturing a little further from home. While innovation is prominent in the middle market, there are four characteristics that separate the top innovators from their peers. A recent report from The National Center for the Middle Market has defined what those characteristics are.

What Top Middle Market Innovators Do Differently

  1. Their innovation portfolio has a greater appetite for risk: Instead of focusing a majority of their time placing bets on innovating in a space where they have existing knowledge in an existing market, top innovators invest more boldly in acquiring new knowledge in a new market space.

  2. They are believers in “open” innovation: Top innovators are more likely to include outside sources either as an additional tool or to help guide the innovation process. These outside sources can be consultants, peers, experienced entrepreneurs, or even current clients - all being able to share insight from a different perspective.

  3. They have formal processes for decision making: Top innovators are much more likely to have formal processes in place for generating, selecting, and implementing ideas. These formal processes allow for well structured and clearly defined strategies to drive innovative initiatives.

  4. They involve senior management: Top innovators look beyond their own business units. For them, C-suite involvement is significantly greater and more likely to include the CMO, CIO, CTO, CFO, etc. This circles back to the belief in “open” innovation, embracing outside perspectives to help guide the innovative direction.

Top innovators have more robust capabilities for managing innovation risk and capturing the value it creates than the overall middle market. They have the uncanny ability to see the forest for the trees on the path to innovation. The full report from The National Center for the Middle Market reaffirms our experience at Differential when working with corporate innovators; those who really want to innovate tend to see and do things a little differently.

To dive into the granular details of the report - you can read it here.

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