GUEST POST from Teresa Spangler
There has never been a better time to invent, create, and innovate game-changing products, new business models, and services. In fact, I will be so bold as to say, we must change it dramatically to succeed in the future. You know your team needs to be more creative, they need to collaborate, or many seek more outside influence, but this is counter to your current culture. For years, your company has spent much of its efforts and resources on becoming a lean, mean growth machine.
A few questions you might consider:
- Are you creating for the future? How do you know?
- Will what you sell today to be relevant tomorrow? Do you know where your customers are headed? How are your customers changing?
- Are you paying close attention to the growth trends in your market space? Are there competitors you cannot see lurching behind someone else’s geographic lines?
The start-up world of entrepreneurship is escalating. New things are being developed all over the world. This is good news for our needy economy, but these are the very companies that could come up and bite you where it hurts…right in your future’s revenue pocket.
Inspiring our work teams (and leadership) toward a culture of creativity and idea generation is key to just keeping pace and preparing for the future. But that may not be so easy. I have surveyed and had many conversations and meetings recently with leaders of growth companies. How proud we are of strong EBIDTA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization). The bottom line is… this is their bottom line… very good profitability. It appears we will all earn our bonuses for managing expenses tightly.
If incentives are based on cost-cutting and expense tightening, there will be very little investment in the future. The addictive need for immediate return is paralyzing these leaders. I am all for fiscal responsibility! But, we need more balance in our plans between cost-saving efficiencies and game-changing strategies to fuel future growth.
“Ideas are great, our company has a lot of them, and we have a full innovation pipeline but there’s not been a lot of success getting these out the door to return on our investments.” One CEO shared with me. “We are not making money, so we’ve limited investments here!” First, let me say as you may already be aware, the world has some very big needs/challenges that need all hands on deck. Savvy entrepreneurs & companies that invest in the future are going to win in solving these problems and most likely to the disruption of latent business models & possibly your business.
First, let’s identify a few of the dramatic trends that may beg for new ways to serve up new ideas:
- Boomer Segment and Aging: There is a desperate need for new ways to serve this market! Example: an elderly couple cares for each other in their home for many years but neither is very strong, and both have trouble walking much less driving, and getting around is challenging. They do not have the funds for assisted living facilities. They are, however, a lively couple wanting to do things together. What can home designers, product designers, emergency care facilities, security companies do to support these seniors?
- The World Is Getting Older (on average) -Shifts in demographics- this is a big change we will start to feel even more in the coming years. Where will the workforce of the future come from? Training older adults to take on new roles, providing new ways to employee talent, leveraging knowledgeable and experienced talent at any age will take shape. What are you doing today to prepare for this shift? Where can you innovate new services, products, solutions to help companies drive a successful shift.
- The need for new ways to grow food, provide clean water, and ensure the safety of these precious resources, is a growing concern. Example: Some regions in the world still have little infrastructure to support their enormous population. The majority of the rural areas have not toilets, little running water, their streams are used for bathing and cleaning laundry and drinking… what can be created to help these rural regions around the world that have these needs. The U.S. in rural regions has similar needs. How can your company innovate to solve problems like these?
- Consumer behavior is continuing to shift rapidly: Consider how we buy today which changed dramatically in 2020, what we buy has also changed, and so has what influences us to make a decision. And what about places where consumerism has declined for some regions, yet the birth of consumption is occurring in other regions? Example: Sensors that track us and our health (IoT), Tablets, ipads, iphones, and smart devices have changed our behavior as consumers. When you are in the car waiting for your child to come out of school … are you searching on your phone for new doctor, a home designer, a new car? Think NOT about how you are using these tools today but how these tools will progress and continue changing how we do everything. Another example: shopping for that perfect dress or suit. Take your ideas, drawings, colors, and any thoughts you have on the designs…go shopping and have your perfect outfit designed for you. Hyper customization will continue.
- The need for alternative energy sources will only be exasperated by the explosive population growth in regions like Shanghai, Mumbai, Hong Kong, Sao Paulo, and NYC.
- Cybersecurity: The challenges are beyond comprehension and the solutions are not enough. With all the brilliant technology and creative talent in your community and network, how could you generate breakout ideas to solve some of our most challenging issues in the world today with cyber threats?’
Push the human race forward… and while some see them as the crazy ones, we see them as genius! — Steve Jobs, Think Different
- Global Health Care: we’ve watched the best and the worst first-hand over the last year. There is room for improving how healthcare is delivered, prepping for future pandemic-like events, and innovating new methods of caring for people in rural areas. There are so many challenges which is to say, there are so many opportunities.
- Mental Health Supports- THIS IS A STAGGERING Statistic reported by TheHartford: New research finds 70% of employers report mental health challenges among their employees, 52% also report substance misuse or addiction, while 72% say mental health stigma blocks care.
These are big problems, big changes, and even bigger opportunities for entrepreneurs and brands alike to innovate. How might these trends be affecting you? Your customer? Your market?
I agree priorities should be on revenue coming in the door. It is a difficult balancing act with such tightly managed resources and focuses on the bottom line and profitability to add any new initiatives that may be futuristic and top-line focused. Much of our client work is about creating the balance for top-line growth initiatives while also managing bottom-line responsibilities.
How do you set aside resources and break down the barriers to game-changing ideas? And then how do you deal with the litany of barriers that will crop up on the path to any new inventive thing?
Let’s dissect a few of the challenges that keep us from continuous innovation on your way to market leadership. Here are 4 examples of barriers you may face along your inventive future:
- Companies are fixated on quick returns… there is this addiction like quality to seeing our investments instantly returning benefit to us. But if we do not invest in the future to grow top line revenues and invest in new products, services that will engage the market of the future (and the future is coming at us faster and faster) we’ll extinct our own companies. Example solution: Use open communities or outside consultants that are experts at innovation and commercialization. You can budget your time, leverage their resources, and budget the funds without defocusing your current team.
- Nay-Sayers stop us in our tracks all too often. Embrace the Nay-sayers. They should have their voices heard for their valued input but do not cave in the face of their fears. There are, what I call, negative risks and positive risks. Negative risks are those that are pushed through without planning, insights, trends or customer interactions. They are made in isolation.
- We are Positive Risk-Takers– Positive Risk-Taking is when you’ve done homework, customer discussions, you understand the trends, but there are still certainly risks on this unknown path. Example solutions: Create pilot programs, move forward slowly, and know what metrics you need to know this big idea is gaining momentum. Give it enough time to get traction. Big ideas do not happen overnight. They do not happen even in a year or two sometimes depending on the nature of your game changing idea. Withstand the Nay-sayers, and hear them out.
- Lack of time, mentorship, resources, and investments! in every client these are issues that persist, if you are growing you will always need more of all of those things. Leveraging our open collaboration methodology can be a great way to learn, manage early costs and keep investments low while you are in discovery, planning and building stages.
- Lack of embracing older talent. Somewhere along the way of building our great country, corporate America narrowed our prime working years to ages 23 to 42. The employable world has been treated as this demographic is the only time creative brain power exists. What benefits could you receive by diversification of your talent pool? Example solution: build your own internal game-changing mentor network. I once did an innovation workshop and had 4 people from an AARP chapter office join the group. I was shocked (yes, maybe at the time, I had bought into the whole young creative minds thing too) to learn this group was designing alternative transportation and working with the local energy company to do so. Many of the group were retired from larger companies with great knowledge and experience and were very eager to volunteer mentor or contract themselves out. Leverage brilliance, not age.
No need to go it alone! Bring in experts to show you the way. Maybe you are very experienced. Is this where your valuable time should be spent? Leverage is the name of the game. Commercializing our client’s innovations (getting customers and revenue in the door), Aligning internal teams, and accelerating success is 99% of the work we do at Plazabridge Group. There are great options out there to help you. Use them and increasing your available time on critical priorities.
Five Baby Steps to Kick-start your way Game Changing Innovation
What tips can I provide you to break free some of the more challenging barriers? We must change our thinking, our behavior, our cultures to truly create game changing innovations.
1. Be open to the possibility: Our educational systems educate us to research why things will not work, look for justifications, returns, market needs, corporations are stuck in this cycle of simplistic additions of products and services. Not mind-blowing, turn it all inside out, cool as innovations that excite and delight customers! So many great ideas are killed before they are even shared with 3 people. Case brief: In one of our consulting engagements with large consumer beverage company we heard, of course, under their breath “we’ve lost our coolness.” The project goal was to shift their leaders and their corporate culture (globally) from being risk averse to taking more risks. This is a big challenge in the face of Six Sigma black belts. Every idea was summarily dismissed before the idea could be written fully on the whiteboard. The young emerging leaders would get excited the senior team became paralyzed in fear and why it would not work in this lean operationally efficient system. Challenging everything they knew, they agreed to work on one of the ideas that came out of one of our sessions (this took 4 months). That idea took 3 years to finally reach the market, but it was a true game changer for this company. They captured desired market share goals, built a new sustainable revenue stream, and took back the title as “cool”!
2. Yes AND! A first step to get there may be a simple shift: instead of YES BUT use YES AND! We often get stuck in the vision of the Mt. Everest like mountain climb but without training and dedicated Sherpas to lead the way: nearly impossible to reach the peak! We know the outcome before we’ve even taken one step. Drop this thinking now. It is devastating to any game-changing acts. You must be passionate, diligent, believe in the mission, be focused, and not worried about the ups and the downs and the back ups as that is the ride you will be on till the game is changed. Example: As a mentor to young entrepreneurs, I, too often, the words can’t and don’t. We stop ourselves before even getting a good strong start on our ventures. There are many programs through the universities, through organizations like Take advantage of all the resources you can find. In our larger client companies, we hear similar statements, “my ideas go nowhere”, “we aren’t getting traction to get game-changing technologies out the door”, “we are strapped for resources”, “where’s the ROI on the investments?” and so many other barrier statements that stop us in our tracks.
3. Open up! Whether you “open up” to a closed circle of trusted friends and colleagues or to an open collaborative forum sharing your ideas with others who may have interest can propel ideas forward at speeds sometimes unimaginable! Example: In many of the companies we work with, there is the need for a shift in their culture to a creative and innovation culture and centering it on the customer and b. to encourage more creativity amongst themselves. I will admit this is not a baby step but one step that is critical to the success of innovation. There are many simple ways to shift cultures and. in tandem, drive successful results. Here are a few case studies on some of the work we have done:
- Case Study: Digital Transformation and Revenue Growth
- Case Study: Digital Transformation Leveraging Core Data Assets
4. Enroll others into your vision over time! Not everyone may be as quick at seeing your idea or vision. Spend time with people one on one. Take time to grow consensus on ideas. We must help them see the way. Rarely, in game changing products or companies, do customers immediately flock to the new thing. Again, we must show them, educate, and encourage people to try new things. Example: Many of our clients are in the game changing business. To help them commercialize their new ideas and technologies we build a process that is slow, methodical, and measurable. By building in milestones and measures, we educate ourselves on what we need to do to bring our customers into buying mode. Simple steps are best to start out with and if you engage your customers for feedback along the way you will learn more about what they need from you to buy.
5. Become a Savvy Money Navigator Vs a Bank! Money will always be the subliminal barrier at every stage of your growth! Take some time to learn where funding exists for ideas inside your company. For the CEO, really consider your future growth and task your teams to look forward! Where will growth come from? Will it be with existing customers? Do you know where their future plans are heading and how you align with their journey forward? Many companies lose sight of their customer’s future growth plans and more times than desired those plans do not include their current partners’ and suppliers’ products. Don’t assume…ASK!
How might we help you drive game-changing growth? Reach out directly to me.
Image credit: Pixabay
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