Reinventing a 360-Year-Old Company

By Christopher W. Miller, Ph.D.

Reinventing a 360-year-old company is an everyday job. If one of your first products was an oxen-driven gristmill in the 1650’s; if you have a product in almost every American household; if surviving the Nazi occupation of WWII is a recent memory, you may work for Fiskars. Looking for new business opportunities and mapping a product path for taking advantage of those opportunities is a way of life at Fiskars. They know for sure that the only constant is change and that next to delivering a great product every day; scissors, punches, garden tools; innovation is a necessity.

The Fiskars Garden Tool division decided to look at what could be next. They chose Innovation Focus’ Hunting for Hunting Grounds process which involved: chartering a cross-functional team, scouting the world for exciting technologies and emerging trends, beating a drum or synthesizing the results into a few important opportunity areas, and inventing a path of product ideas (things you can do tomorrow and things you can do in 5, 10 and 15 years). An early release from their effort was Rain Barrels.

Google search “Boomer Gardener: Rain Barrel,” and imagine the converging trends and problems around this simple – yet important, old – yet new, fundamental – yet improved and elegant solution. Now watch for the next decade and see where they take their product path. In product innovation it is never about a single product- a wonder widget- it is always about the platform and the path these products take in service to the customer.

A rain barrel and an oxen-driven gristmill fit together after all, don’t they? Maybe it takes a 360-year-old company to remind us that the point is not radical innovation, new to the world products or innovation that leads to long-term success. It is about meeting fundamental needs in a meaningfully differentiated way day-in and day-out, year after year, decade after decade, century after century.

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