If you've been following the news I'm sure you would have heard about two major book retailer collapses - Borders book store in the US and Angus and Robertson in Australasia.

What's interesting about the failures of these companies is their reliance on a traditional business model and traditional way of doing business. Despite the obvious trend of people buying more and more books online, these businesses failed to look at some serious innovation in order to survive.

Some people still like to argue that innovating is a risky venture, one could counter that not innovating was perhaps the riskiest of all decisions to make for these companies.

So what would you do if you were in charge of a traditional business that has an ever increasing competition and declining profit margin?

Innovation can be applied in a number of different ways. 

Some simple areas to consider include:

How you are selling your product or service?
What you are selling?
Where you are selling it?
When you are selling it?
Why you are selling it?
How much you are selling it for?
How long it takes to sell it?

A crucial component of innovating requires you to look at the whole business from start to finish. 

Once you have mapped the business you then need to consider asking the agitative questions such as "What if we didn't sell books- what then?" "How would we survive and what would we do instead?"

Askingagitating questions can take us to a new territory that we may never have considered before. 

What agitating questions could Borders or Angus and Robertson been asking?

"If we weren't selling books would we still be a retailer? 

"Could we sell something else? What would we sell?"

"What if we had no face to face selling? How would we operate?" 

"What if we didn't buy books from publishers?" 

"What if we became publishers as well as a retailer would that help?"

Asking agitative questions is not an easy task, and the ramifications of those questions if applied are likely to have a huge impact. Yet the opportunity of finding a new business solution rather than watching a business collapse makes much more business sense.

Taking an innovative approach is less risky that taking a traditional approach.