The growing imperative for more innovative thinking will radically reshape rigid corporate entities in the coming years. In an ultra-competitive, highly connected world, business models - such as those in music, movies, financial services, television, advertising, travel and energy - simply don't last as long as they used to.
 
Innovation in the business world
 
It is becoming increasingly clear that businesses need to find new sources of profit before the old ones disappear and one of the key tools in delivering on this is, and creating a long term sustainable competitive advantage, is innovation. To this end firms are increasing their use of innovation teams to stimulate ideas and change corporate culture.
 
Intertwining innovation with corporate structures is central to this cultural change. And to achieve this firms are focusing on both their people and their processes, in particular the technology being used and encouraged within the business. The success of this change depends on allowing people to challenge the orthodoxy, harness trends, leverage resources and understand needs (of both its people and its customer).
 
Questioning received wisdom is an important, if sometimes abrasive, process. Exposure to new ideas and perspectives comes through talking to other firms, customers or even people in different areas of your own firm. Breaking down these internal silos can be a difficult process just in itself.
 
Developing connections between problems and queries from other fields, joining the dots that others do not see, can also help identify innovation. For example, MP3 players and music stores existed before Apple took the market by storm by creating the iPod and iPhone, linking them both with iTunes to marry the hardware and software.
 Apple iPod
Perhaps even more fundamentally, Apple turns traditional practice on its head: rather than starting with the hardware and worrying about its design later, the company designs the product and adjusts the technology accordingly.
 
Rivals, such as Korean electronics giant Samsung, take a different approach. The company brings together some of the its brightest minds in design, programming and engineering at the the company's VIP (value innovation program) Centre near Seoul and so bringing the technology aspects to the fore earlier the process. Both approaches work, and the corporate cultures are encouraged to match their respective practices.
 
Samsung
 
The success of home appliances manufacturer Whirpool is proof that this approach works in other sectors. About US$3.5b of the company's annual revenue comes from products born out of its own innovation program.
 
Innovating successfully in these ways is not easy. It requires employees who buy into the leadership's beliefs and values and a management structure that supports innovation. It also relies on the allocation of funds to projects, staff training and an IT platform to capture, manage and share the ideas being generated.
 
Fundamental to innovation success is the realisation that grand schemes led from the top will fail if middle management has no interest in implementing them. But get the layers in place and you may have a chance of changing that culture for the better.