Tag Archives: Innovation

USPS Innovation: A Closed-Door Affair

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of attending National Postal Customer Council Day at Gotham Hall in NYC.  If USPS matters are important to your business, this is a must-attend annual event.

Similar to last year’s simulcast, this year’s presentation included USPS top sales and marketing brass: Steve Kearney, Susan Plonkey, Pat Donahoe, and Postmaster General Jack Potter.  You can view the video presentation here.  Not surprisingly, the focus of the presentation was on the continual decline in mail volume and what the USPS is doing to address this problem.  The keyword repeated over and over was “innovation.”  I heard lots of talk of new rate categories, summer sales, and the Intelligent Mail Barcode.

Why is the USPS taking on all of the “Innovation” work themselves?  When are they going to realize that declining mail volume is not their problem alone?

The USPS needs to figure out how to invite their biggest clients and the vendors serving those clients to join the party.  I can tell you from extensive experience that developing, testing, and launching new mail products, while following the USPS playbook, is nothing short of an epic challenge.

The USPS could take some guidance from the technology world and embrace an open-source mentality.  The technology sector learned a dozen years ago that if you hold on to your trade secrets and defend your source code by building a brick wall around it, the only thing you will accomplish is making sure no one advances and broadens what you have created.

The folks at the USPS need to break down the brick walls and allow customers and vendors in to develop new products and services.  Stop creating complicated rules and regulations that keep us at arm’s length.  Allow us access so that we can develop products that grow the business, creating win-win business opportunities for the USPS, their customers, and the vendors who serve those customers.

Bob Makofsky at bmakofsky@conformerinc.com

Blue Ocean Moment: Steer Clear of Best-in-Class

The Blue Ocean Strategy

The Blue Ocean Strategy

Bob and I are delivering one of the keynote speeches at the Envelope Manufacturers Association (EMA) annual meeting next week in Atlanta on innovation.  Maynard Benjamin, the EMA’s president, has been a strong advocate of the innovation that Conformer Products Inc. is bringing to the industry, and he asked us to speak to this illustrious group on the alignment of our innovation process to the principles in Blue Ocean Strategy, a terrific business book by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne.

So we’re presenting “Swimming in the Blue Ocean.”  And although Conformer Inc. tread this path years before this book appeared on our radar, I have to say that it is quite gratifying to see our strategy laid out so well in this book.  Essentially, the B.O.S. “challenges companies to break out of the red ocean of bloody competition by creating uncontested market space that makes the competition irrelevant.”

Last night, I attended a terrific Forum for Women Executives & Entrepreneurs (FWE&E) event in Silicon Valley.  And the speaker Dee McCrorey, addressing the topic of creating a personal innovation brand said, “Why strive to be best-in-class?  You’re still in the class!”

Though McCrorey didn’t reference Blue Ocean Strategy, her comment got right to the heart of breakthrough innovation.  The book discourages best practices and competitive benchmarking in order to “break away from the competition” (which is an intriguing idea for MBA-types like myself who have spent many hours best practicing and benchmarking).

This concept also addresses how lonely and isolating it can be as a start-up that is committed to zig when others zag.  At times, pitching our patented solutions has made me feel like a crazy person.  Well, the tide has certainly turned, hasn’t it?

I’ll let you know how our speech to the EMA goes next week and post a copy of it on our blog.

Sari McConnell at smcconnell@conformerinc.com