NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Investment follows innovation follows investment.Regardless of which comes first, we need both. Innovation can seem a daunting task. Yet, contrary to popular thought, it should start and end with ignoring what the competition is doing. Innovation is easy; just stop "best practices." How about an airline with open seating and funny flight attendants? How about guaranteed overnight delivery of anything anywhere in the world? What about a condiment bottle that's upside down? What about a muscle relief in a patch? How about a computer, phone, still and video camera in the palm of your hand? What about hardware, clothing, garden, drug, pet, sporting goods, electronics, automotive, and a grocery store, all under one roof and at incredibly low prices? What about buying and selling things without customers having to even go to a store building? No doubt you're recognizing your own favorite manufacturer or brand in every one of the above items. The common factor they all have is not following-the-leader or copy others. These are examples of not following best practices, generally accepted methods of operations, business models, product development or distribution. In recent years I've even developed a new process for strategic planning itself that gets my clients goes against-the-grain of traditional planning and thinking innovatively about strategy development. Apple ( AAPL), Southwest Airlines ( LUV), Starbucks ( SBUX), Wal-Mart ( WMT), Icy Hot and other icons of brand loyalty and innovation all broke free of the same old, same old. That meant not using the same industry consultants, pricing schemes, even service policies. Innovation doesn't apply only to new products, but also to re-packaging proven products from institutional sizes to single servings. Often it's taking a product from liquid to gel to solid. Consider bottled disinfectants and putting them into individual wipes for convenience. Consider a bleach product that not only has an incredible line extension, but has also collaborated with other manufacturers to blend products. Look at the success of 3M's ( MMM) Post-it brand. Not only was it an attempt to have a glue that didn't permanently stick, but it comes in all sizes, shapes, purposes, colors, and is a cross-collaboration and distribution channels alternative success story.
Innovation is about exploitation, collaboration, re-purposing, as well as brand new. Innovation is about new, improved, and against the grain. Investors are in search of only two things: the proven and the potential. Getting in on the bottom floor of a new idea, new product, new purpose, or new model is always a strong appeal to some. As the seminal icon of innovation said in past ad campaigns, "Think Different." Not proper English, but an effective mantra for those who want to create a distinct or innovative brand. Don't copy; compete. Don't follow; lead. Don't do; do something else. Got an idea that breaks the mold? As another branding icon's theme and directive says, "Just do it!" This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.