Keynote Address: Innovation the key to success 

Soren Kaplan’s Free Keynote Address at the 2013 International Boston Seafood Show can be summed up in one word: innovation.

Kaplan spoke to a full room, talking about concepts in his latest book, “Leapfrogging to Breakthrough Innovation.” He said innovation creates pleasant surprises for the customer, and to illustrate he showered the room with handfuls of packets of Pop Rocks, the candy that sizzles in the mouth. Kaplan said that, as a child, this was the first example of a happy surprise he had ever experienced.

“I didn’t know candy could do that,” he said.

Surprises can come for the company, too. Kaplan cited the Four Seasons hotel chain as an example. In the 1990s, the hotels catered exclusively to business travelers, until the emergence of the Internet as a marketing platform let the company put up a website showcasing the hotels.

Right away, he said, the hotel was besieged with phone calls asking about vacation packages, something the company had never considered before with its business-class clientele.

A review of the website in the Wall Street Journal, describing it as “making you feel like you’re already on vacation,” finally woke the company up to the potential new market, and since then the hotels have had great success catering to vacationers and business travelers.

But not every innovator caters to the market. Kaplan noted that Apple Computer is famous for doing its own thing, regardless of the markets. Knowing when to go with the markets and when to go it alone is not always easy, but Kaplan said it’s about sticking to your company’s mission, and knowing its place in the lives of its customers.

“The trick is to know what you stand for, and know what value you’re ultimately providing to the market,” he said. “Fall in love with the problem, and the vision, not the solution.”


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