Innovation

Innovation requires time and space, something that people find is missing in their schedules. In fact, most people are too busy putting out fires and cleaning up mistakes from shortcuts they took.  Our impulse tells us to take the shortcut but experience tells us planning and innovation is the best use of our time when we want to be more efficient and effective.

This is the cycle, we tell ourselves we don’t have the time to do the proactive thinking which is the work that makes us more efficient and effective because we are too busy trying (that is the operative word) to work harder at being efficient and effective. That is not smart.

It is, however, our natural instinct because it is seeking the instant gratification, the quick result. Our culture has been shifting to focus more on now than on what we can create tomorrow.

Of course, we can’t be 100% focused on the future at the sacrifice for today. But like anything, we need to have balance to create short and long-term success. We need to fulfill today’s needs and all the while step into tomorrows thinking to get access to open up new markets, update delivery methods and develop new products and services to be relevant and competitive in the future.

TIP: To be innovative, shift your thinking from today to tomorrow.

If we look at some extreme examples, like Blockbuster, Kodak, or Borders, we see companies that ignored future needs, future processes and future thinking and paid the price with the breakdown of a successful, thriving organization. Big or small innovation and thinking outside of the box, the box you currently work in is essential for business survival let alone success.

If you aren’t thinking about the needs of your customer in the future and how to change delivery, break down purchasing barriers and change consumption methods you may just be missing the boat for the future success of your business.

Did you know that in 2000 the founder of Netflix flew out to see the CEO at Blockbuster to pitch that Netflix could be the online brand for blockbuster and Blockbuster laughed in their face? Look who is laughing now! Blockbuster went bankrupt in 2010.

The story is a little more complicated but the end result is clear. If you are running your business focusing on what is urgent and dedicating no time to what is important for the future, you will be missing opportunity and may well be working your way out of a business no matter how big or small your business is.

Tip: Dedicate time to strategic innovative thinking.

innovation

Just because we have the time dedicated doesn’t make it easy. I have a number of CEOs I work with from mid-sized companies who are concerned with their next levels of management. They tell me that they feel this group is not strategic enough, they aren’t brining new ideas to the table.

One of the challenges we face is we are so used to thinking tactically and form today’s perspective that we don’t know how to think more strategically. We don’t have the skills and the CEOs managing them don’t know how to provide the structures they need to build those skills. Give people frameworks and structures that guide their thinking. Run workshops to ideate and then you will help them shift from the tactical mindset and the questions and priorities that come from that energy to the questions and priorities that come from strategically starting with tomorrow.

Workshops when properly facilitated give you both the dedicated time you need and provide the structures to get the team thinking differently and out of their day to day operational mode.

Great ideas and innovation don’t have to come from within, some of the best ideas come from the customers themselves.

I was working in a market research company and newly took over the retail division that was no longer competitive on the market and without some sort of innovation was not going to make it long term. Updating the same method was not going to be profitable and further drain the company of resources. We needed a miracle.

One of the first questions I asked was “When was the last time we asked our customers what challenges they were having in their business and what was important to them today and in the foreseeable future.”  Everyone said – we know what our customers want. I asked the question again.. “WHEN was the last time we asked our customers what challenges they were having in their business and what was important to them today and in the foreseeable future. 

Never.

So let’s do it. Through a series of workshops with customers and prospects, we found out that they did want the level of detail we provided but their current challenge was top-level data and speed. Now we had something that could be a competitive advantage.

We didn’t have the technology to make this happen but that doesn’t matter-if there is a will and a true need we would find a way. We evaluated several platforms and found the best technology. With much difficulty we obtained buy-in from the CEO, IT department and the rest of the organization. And a year and a half later, we rolled it out and locked in the largest retailers in our market for 3-year contracts. BOOM!

Our innovation came from being objective, listening to the consumers and what they need and finding a way to fill that need.

It took a lot of investment of time, money and other resources but that is how a business grows in the market place – investment in their people and in the future.

We were in a precarious position so we HAD to do something.  The reason why the Blockbusters and other companies fall so hard is that they are profitable and don’t want to rock the boat. But in reality, they act more like an ostrich and stick their head in the sand ignoring more agile and competitive companies who will adapt to meet the needs of the marketplace.

Tip: Leaders need to be more market and customer centric rather than company centric.

This shift in perspective will open up a different opportunity. It will create a focus on value as opposed to cost optimization. I want to re-iterate that a different perspective will open us up to ask different questions, set different priorities and will create different results.

These tips seem rather obvious, but like Jim Rohn says “They are simple to do and simple not to do.” When we are caught up in the stresses of the moment it is hard to make the time, dedicate the energy and shift your thinking to invest for the future. It requires a clear purpose, commitment, dedication, planning and follow-through to create innovation in your company.

The shift in our thinking doesn’t come through the innovation, it comes before the innovation.

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