As part of our holiday to Gozo, the island that neighbours Malta in the sparkling, azure Mediterranean Sea, we visited a local farm. Martin, the farmer, proudly showed us the series of terraces, water tanks, pumps, pipes and channels that irrigate his orange and lemon groves. When he was a child, he told us, the water had to be carried by hand – his and those of his 11 brothers and sisters.

Innovation, in the forms of petrol-engined pumps has transformed the productivity of his farm, enabling him to produce more fruit with less effort: the farm is now operated only by Martin and his wife, who told us sotto voce that she only worked first thing in the morning, before it got too hot!

A few hours before our tour of Martin’s farm, Google had announced that it had acquired Motorola Mobile for $12 billion. Then purchase was not so much to access Motorola’s current business operations, but to possess Motorola’s extensive portfolio of patents, which include TV set-top box technologies, as well as the company’s mobile handset and systems’ patents.

The technologies may change, but the principle remains the same. The ongoing success of any organisation is inextricably determined by its ability to generate and exploit new productivity-enhancing technologies and innovations. The productivity gain may be in the form of new revenues, higher margins, greater efficiencies or lower costs, but if you haven’t created, accessed or exploited new intellectual property the chances are that you will be falling behind your competitors.

So, ask yourself, in what ways, specifically, has your business step-changed its productivity over the past year, in ways that your competitors will struggle to match, and what are your plans to do so in the coming 12 months?

© Stuart Cross 2011. All rights reserved.