It’s tempting, in a yo-yo economic climate, to slash costs and investment across the board. But don’t! Instead, get selective, get lean. Discretionary spending is negotiable. Brand building, innovation and product development are not.

That’s what business advisor and speaker Ram Charan says in his Fortune magazine article Managing Your Business in a Downturn.” Charan tells us that we must keep buildingeven during financial downturns.

“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,” he explains.

Invest in innovation. Charan’s article appeared four years ago. So, what has changed? Not that much, really. The economy is still suspect. The stock market continues its ups and downs, only now we have the added concerns over the situation in Greece and an Iran that threatens to become a nuclear power.

Recently, I returned from an amazing trip to Chile and Easter Island. (People are finally discovering this remarkable sliver of a country.) Here innovation can be found everywhere. I picked up a copy of I Love Chile News, which had a special feature entitled “Innovators of 2012.” The issue featured the myriad ways that innovators are transforming that country.

Even in the worst of times, innovation is possible. In fact, it’s often the pressure of hard times that forces people to find new ways of doing things. Don’t let your present situation obscure your view of the future. Keep preparing for it—it’s right around the corner.

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Joanne Black is a professional sales speaker, sales webinar leader, and author of “No More Cold Calling: The Breakthrough System That Will Leave Your Competition in the Dust” from Warner Business Books. Visit www.nomorecoldcalling.com. © Copyright 2011 Joanne S. Black. All rights reserved.