We are hearing much these days about declining occupancy levels in the senior living sector. Rightfully so.

After all, fewer heads in units and beds generally makes it much harder to pay bills and staff, much less hand out bonuses.

But while declining averages tell part of the story, they hardly tell all of it. To be sure, some operators are in a serious hurt locker these days. Yet others are doing quite well.

When people in this field talk about the things that separate the haves from the have nots, here are the four food groups most-often cited: good management, good training, good culture and good pay.

But one ingredient rarely mentioned is innovation. Which strikes me as a bit of a head-scratcher. Time and time again, we have seen how operators who took the road less traveled – or to be more precise, the road never traveled before – have been richly rewarded for the effort.

While innovation is important in a time of growth, it’s critical when all you-know-what is breaking loose. But don’t take my word for it. Take the Drucker Institute’s.

The organization recently examined why some companies continue to do well in industries that are in decline. To do so, they examined firms based on five categories: employee engagement and development, customer satisfaction, financial strength, social responsibility and innovation.

And what did they find? Among companies not along for the slide, innovation was usually the reason why.

Does that mean your community will fill up simply by innovating? Hardly. But it strongly suggests that innovation can help, and help in a big way.