Stick with core brand building, innovation, and product development, even in volatile markets.

It’s tempting, in a yo-yo economic climate to slash costs and investment across the board. Don’t. Get selective. Get lean. Discretionary spending is negotiable.

What’s not negotiable are brand building, innovation, and product development. That’s what Ram Charan wrote in Fortune on February 12, 2008, Managing Your Business in a Downturn”. 

He said Keep building. When the top line looks shaky and the bottom line worse, the temptation is to go after discretionary spending. Fine – but do not consider product development, innovation, and brand building optional. Sacrificing your future for a slightly more comfortable present is not worth it. If you keep building, you can come back strong.”

Invest In Innovation

It’s four years later and what’s changed? Not that much, really. The economy is still suspect. The stock market has its ups and downs, the situation in Greece keeps rearing its head, and Iran threatens nuclear power.

However, innovation appears to be the “new word” for 2012. I recently returned from an amazing trip to Chile and Easter Island. People are finally discovering this remarkable sliver of a country.

Invest In Entrepreneurial Thinking

Entrepreneurs thrive there:

  • A company that provides wine tours has been in business one year. They’re searching for a space to expand their business and provide a Chilean cooking experience as well as pairing wines with food.
  • A Santiago tour driver launches a business with his brother to offer tours throughout the country and into the Mendoza wine region of Argentina (just over the Andes).
  • A young, energetic Chilean woman who recently returned from working with California wineries, is forming partnerships with VCs and angel investors who want to invest in wineries in Chile.

I picked up a copy of I Love Chile News when I was in Chile. They had a special feature on Innovators of 2012 (alas, not available online). The issue featured education Innovation: innovation and indigenous peoples; agricultural innovation; the game inventor of Phrazzle Me; women entrepreneurs; and a New York street-seller who has 20 vendors in New York, 300 in Chile, and 10 in Spain… and more.

How Are You Innovating?

What changes have you made to survive and thrive? How are you innovating—in connection, product, process, and delivery? Comment here and share your innovation.