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The Right Climate for Innovation
CNBC.com | September 19, 2011 | 10:12 AM EDT

He also notes that “innovation” doesn’t necessarily mean “capital intensive.”

“If you can cut melon or make a right-hand turn, then you can be innovative. Supermarkets recognized the growing demand for take-out food and simply added prepared foods to their product mix,” Tencer says. “UPS recognized that right-hand turns saved gas and time, enabling more deliveries. These are examples of simple, adaptive innovation.”

He does suggest that there are strategies better tailored for good times and bad. Easier access to money does make a difference, after all. A smart entrepreneur works to find and use that different edge, Tencer says.

“That is the importance of understanding the innovation continuum—simple, adaptive to focused, disruptive. In tough times, be a little more to the conservative, simple end of the continuum. And in good times move toward the disruptive end, which requires greater capital,” he says. “If you’ve done well in the tough times, finding money in good times to further build on your success should be that much easier.”

Just don’t be too conservative, he cautions.

“Fear makes us cut budgets to the bare bones and fall behind those who manage to keep reinvesting,” he says. “Today, not going forward means moving backwards.”

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