Innovation: Not just for technology companies
Form follows function is a principle associated with modern architecture and industrial design in the early 20th century. The idea is that the shape of a building should be primarily based upon its intended function or purpose. I’m not an architect, but this makes sense in any number of different applications, including doing business in a resort area.
Form follows function is a great lesson for businesses and other organizations to follow. It is important that your organization be structured in such a way as to best meet the needs of your customers and your stakeholders (both internal and external).
We’re more than halfway through the ski season, so businesses are long past the planning phase. However, the calendar doesn’t change the fact that sales forecasts, staffing levels, new product lines or updates to your menu, marketing plans and promotional tools are available to your business — and businesses need to ensure that the form (what you are doing) follows the function (what you hope to achieve).
What does that mean to us here in the Vail Valley? Successful operations need to remain innovative and recognize that innovation isn’t just for technology companies. The concept of form follows function essentially requires service-driven organizations to remain innovative to meet the needs of their customers.
“We know that innovation is key to economic growth,” said Catherine Grassman, executive director, Colorado Innovation Network (COIN). As noted in this past year’s Colorado Innovation Report, Colorado is a top innovative state, specifically in the areas of small business density, collaborative work spaces, education of our workforce and the high number of small business loans and grants. And the word is spreading because Colorado is now quickly becoming known as a national and global leader in innovation.
Numerous groups are working in these areas here in the Vail Valley and the mountain region, including, but not limited to, Vail Leadership Institute, Colorado Mountain College and the Northwest Colorado Council of Government small business loan fund.
Don’t believe that Colorado is an innovative place or has a reputation for innovation? Here are a handful of the rankings that highlighted Colorado in 2013:
No. 8 on Bloomberg’s “Top 20 Most Innovative States” list (December 2013).
No. 7 on Fast Company’s “United States of Innovation” list (May 2013).
No. 4 on Miliken Institute’s “2012 State Technology and Science Index” (April 2013).
No. 2 on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce top states for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, as noted in the “2013 Enterprising States Report” (April 2013).
The 2013 Colorado Innovation Report spotlights a number of facts about Colorado and how we are well positioned to benefit from innovation and entrepreneurship:
Fact: Colorado ranks above the national average in terms of breadth of entrepreneurship among both the self-employed and small businesses.
Fact: Colorado, along with other peer group states, is slightly below the national average in terms of small business survival rate. However, Colorado continues to perform well in terms of small business measures, scoring high relative to the nation and the peer group with respect to entrepreneurial returns and returns to labor.
Fact: Colorado continues to boast a highly educated workforce and experienced an increase in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) degree attainment.
What does this mean to us here in Eagle County? Our resort-based economy offers opportunities for entrepreneurs and small business owners to succeed. Our economy depends on small business as evidenced by the numerous start-up organizations and locally owned businesses in the Vail Valley.
Business owners throughout the valley share a vision of building a local economy that is resilient and adaptable to outside influences and trends outside our control. Colorado has great momentum related to innovation as evidenced by the above rankings. Our business community in the Vail Valley is well positioned to help lead these efforts.
Our local business community will be well served to remember that form follows function and to remain innovative — in your own ways — and to meet the needs of your customers.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership.