Innovation drives progress. It's important to keep track of innovation trends because one day these trends could become the norm. We need to know what to prepare for in the future. In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we look at four key innovation trends identified by the Innovation Resource Consulting Group that could soon become the norm in business.

1. The Start-Up Trend

Today's breed of entrepreneurs around the world are discovering that funding is available, customers are receptive, technology is cheap and scalable and many a market's incumbent players are vulnerable to new business models that offer fresh solutions. The secret is to have a good idea, and the old adage "find a need and fill it" still applies. Winning entrepreneurs seek to solve problems people have that they aren't solving particularly well, and are open to change. The impact on the corporate world is clear: better disrupt yourself or someone else will.

2. Additive Manufacturing Is Nearing A Tipping Point

A technology becomes mainstream when adoption levels reach 20 percent, and 3D printing is proof of that. More and more creative people use the new devices to solve problems and create opportunities. NASA uses 3D printing to rapidly create prototypes at lower cost. Broadway stage set designers are using 3D printing to churn out sample sets overnight. Ships at sea are using 3D printers to make replacement parts, which eliminates costly backup inventory. Charities worldwide are creating 3D-printed prosthetics for those who could never afford them otherwise.

While 3D printing does not provide economies of scale achieved through massive production runs, its differentiating factors are increased flexibility and the ability to customize. Because each unit is built independently, it can easily be modified to suit unique needs or, more broadly, to accommodate improvements or changing customer requirements.

3. The On-Demand Economy

The on-demand economy, as coined by the Innovation Trend Report, is due to the highly successful rise of app-based startups and has become a huge global force of disruption. Take Uber, Airbnb and other on-demand apps. On one hand, on-demand businesses enable regular people to make money on their own terms, often with assets they already own. The ability of these new business models to disrupt incumbent businesses has produced violent protests and new regulation from Portland to Paris. Uber is a prime example of this, causing taxi drivers to fight Uber's entrance into key markets. Thinking ahead, it's easy to see how more and more traditional businesses will be upended by competitors from outside their industry and outside their geographic area.

4. The Crowd Is The Future

Thanks to the internet and social media, crowdsourcing is one of the hottest new methods of tapping customers' (and the wider public's) knowledge, creativity and insight to further your company's goals. Other organizations are crowd-sourcing for solutions to vexing technical problems or to discover winning algorithms (Netflix), while snack giant Lay's, a division of Frito Lay, asks the crowd to suggest new chip flavors or even whole snack categories via its crowdsourcing website. To see the front lines of this revolutionary trend visit Clorox Connects at and you'll see dozens of ideas submitted by Clorox consumers. The fact is, we've been crowdsourcing since the time of the Romans. What's different today is the scale and scope of this new method of interacting with the wider world, and this dynamic will only increase in the years ahead.

Robert B. Tucker is the president of The Innovation Resource Consulting Group. He is a speaker, seminar leader and an expert in the management of innovation and assisting companies in accelerating ideas to market.