Change is happening, and sometimes in surprising ways. Customer behaviors and expectations, marketplace variables, competitive landscape, advances in technology, how you do your job—the waves of change are constantly hitting us.
In order to not just catch up with change, but to get ahead and harness change, innovation must be more than a point-in-time exercise or something siloed for the select few. Innovation must be a part of the fabric of your organization. And as if the accelerated rate of change isn’t enough, here are a few other key points that make the case for dialing up your culture of innovation.
Success Yesterday Versus Today
Of the the 500 companies that made up the Fortune 500 in 1955, only 61 still existed in 2014, and it’s dropped from there. That’s only a 12.2% survival rate. What led to success yesterday is not what leads to success tomorrow. Even some of the most successful companies, those that were considered icons of industry, are on the now-defunct list. They had all the resources, people and knowledge to innovate, but instead, they rested on their success, and the marketplace left them behind. You must continually apply innovation to your work to stay ahead of the curve. Blackberry helped create the “computer in the palm of your hand” category and sadly is nowhere to be found today.
If You Don’t, Someone Else Will
Sears versus Amazon. Blockbuster versus Netflix. The Rest of the Fitness World versus CrossFit. The beauty of today’s world is that the playing field is more even than ever. That means anyone can start a business. That also means that the competition is fierce and continually nipping at your heels. All too often I’ve seen companies not even see their competition as a threat until it was too late and the competition had already taken big chunks of their market share. Our biggest competition is the ideas and competitors that you don’t even know about yet, but they are coming. Simply put, if you don’t innovate, someone else will.
The Marketplace Expects It
Your customers, whether that’s in a business-to-business or a business-to-consumer world, expect and value innovation. They want you to solve their biggest needs in new and innovative ways, and create products and services that rock their world.
We are humans and it’s our nature to want to be associated with people and businesses on the leading edge, not the ones being left behind. The marketplac demands innovation and they’ll either open up their wallets to pay for it or go find someone else that will serve their needs.
Armed with this understanding of the importance of innovation, here are five ways to dial up the innovation so you can add that innovative spark to all of your biggest challenges and greatest opportunities.
1. Get past information.
There’s a big difference between information and insights. Information is the data, the research, the content. Insights are the patterns, trends and ideas that emerge from that information. The two are often confused because we are overwhelmed with information and never get to real insights.
Many people share with me how they are so inundated with daily tasks and overwhelmed with the flood of data they receive that they don’t have the time or the energy to innovate. We’ve got to find ways to get rid of unnecessary work on our desks and strip away the data that is just creating noise and get to the thinking and analyzing phase faster. The magic happens in uncovering those nuggets of insight that lead to smart decisions.
2. Bust assumptions.
Every industry, business and even department has them. They are the “rules” of the business, the assumed ways of doing things. Perhaps they are how it’s done in your industry or the way the business has always worked. Often times they are unstated rules that have been in place longer than most of us can remember.
There is a story about a research study that was done with monkeys. In this story, the monkeys are in a large cage. The researchers put a banana at the top of the cage. When the first group of monkeys goes for the banana, they squirt them with water, hence, punishing them for going for the banana. They learn to not go for the banana and, in fact, pull each other down should another monkey try.
Over time, new monkeys are added to the cage and when those monkeys go for the banana the older monkeys pull them down. New monkeys are continually introduced until none of the original monkeys are in the cage. Yet, the learned behavior of not going for the banana remains and the monkeys continue to stop each other from going for the banana.
Think of this research story in the context of your business. How many of your ways of doing business are rules that have been passed down from one person or team to the next, yet are of no value in today’s landscape?
How many assumptions of how things have to be done are actually legacy thinking that is now hindering innovation and progress? To leverage innovation, you’ve got to do some serious assumption and rule busting.
I have found the easiest way to break away from those assumptions and rules is to ask what I call, Inciting Questions. These aren’t the usual questions or the questions you’ve always asked. No, these are the questions that stir and prompt totally new thinking. They challenge and break through those assumptions. I explain how to use this easy innovation tool to challenge the assumptions holding you back in this video: bit.ly/InnovateHow
3. Remove “ER” from your vocabulary.
Simply put, better isn’t enough in today’s crazy competitive marketplace. To be successful today, you need to be different. When we settle for a customer experience, product or service that is bettER, fastER, smoothER, etc. all we are doing is adding to the noise our customers are experiencing. Plus, we open ourselves up to being out “ER”ed by our competition. It’s easy to be a little faster or a little nicer, but it’s hard to compete with meaningful differentiation.
Challenge yourself by exploring completely different solutions. Ask yourself, “If we couldn’t do this anymore, what would we do?” or ideate with the premise that business as you do it today has completely gone away and you must come up with new paths and solutions.
4. Know that everyone is capable and responsible.
In my 20 plus years of work in the innovation field, I’ve discovered that everyone is capable of and should be responsible for innovation. When innovation is siloed to a specific team or project, it tends to fail. Companies that harness innovation as their competitive advantage recognize that innovation comes from all rungs of the organizational ladder.
Everyone from customer representatives and administrative staff to R&D and the C-suite are accountable for bringing innovation to their work. In my definition of innovation—people each thinking differently about what’s right in front of them to create differentiated value—everyone can and should participate.
5. Avoid launch and abandon.
Think of innovation like a rocket in space. If you fire up the engines to get the rocket off the ground only to turn them off or not engage new engines, that rocket is hurling back to earth for a fiery crash.
This is the same in business and we see it all the time. In fact, it’s why we created our On Demand Innovation Platform, so that our clients could have access to the tools they needed to continually keep the innovation fires burning strong. Otherwise, the launch and abandon strategy is actually making them work twice as hard in the long run and hindering their results. Avoid it at all costs.
At my organization, LaunchStreet, we are dedicated to providing easy to implement innovation tools and resources that can be used to elevate a culture of innovation that leads to bottom line results. For specific tools and resources you can use with your teams, visit gotoLaunchStreet.com. And for those of you joining me at the annual SOCAP conference in October, we’ll cover some of our top tools and more. See you there!
is an innovation thought leader, seasoned entrepreneur and keynote speaker. She is the founder of LaunchStreet, an organization that provides innovation inspiration and tools and the creator of the Innovation Quotient Edge (IQE), the only assessment that helps you discover your unique Innovator Archetype so you can innovate on demand. Tamara is a CrossFit addict, Netflix binger and owns a 90-pound Mastiff named Zoey.