There has never been a better time to invent, create and innovate game-changing products, business models and services, and you've got to change it up dramatically to succeed.
You know your team needs to be more creative. But this may be counter to your current culture. If you're like a lot of companies, you've spent the past few years becoming a lean, mean growth machine. So here are a few questions you might consider:
Are you creating for the future?
Will what you sell today be relevant tomorrow?
Are you paying close attention to the growth trends in your market space? Are there competitors you cannot see lurking behind someone else’s geographic lines?
Here are five tips to help your company change its thinking, behavior and culture to truly build game-changing innovations.
1. Be open to possibility
Our educational system conditions us to identify how things will not work, to require justification, be mindful of market needs, etc. So corporations are stuck in a habit of carefully calculating additions of products and services—they're not positioned to generate mind-blowing, turn-it-all-inside-out innovations that excite and delight customers. So many great ideas are killed before they are even shared with three people.
I had a consulting engagement with a large consumer beverage company. Their “under the breath” statement to me: “we’ve lost our coolness.” The project goal was to shift the company's global corporate culture 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 it could be written on the white board. The young emerging leaders would get excited, and the senior team became paralyzed in fear about why it would not work. Challenging everything they knew, they agreed to work further on one of the ideas that came out of the sessions—this took four months. That idea took three years to reach the market, but it was a true game-changer for this company. They captured market share and took back the title of “cool!”
2. Yes you can, yes you can!
We often get stuck in the vision of a Mt. Everest-like mountain climb without training and sherpas—it seems 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, focused and not worried about the ups, downs and holdups, as that is the ride you will be on until the game is changed.
As a mentor to young entrepreneurs, I too often use 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 or organizations like the CEDNC.org or StartupAmericaPartnership.org that are there to help you. Take advantage of all the resources you can find.
3. Open up
Whether you open up to a circle of friends and colleagues or a collaborative forum, sharing your thoughts with others can propel ideas forward in speeds sometimes unimaginable!
In many of the companies I work with, there is the need for a shift in culture to center on the customer and encourage more creativity. This is a rather a large step, but it is critical to the success of innovation. Using social media is a great way to engage customers more. Be open to that feedback—good or bad—and be ready to respond.
4. Introduce others to your vision over time
Not everyone may be as quick to see your idea or vision. Spend time with people one-on-one. Take time to grow consensus on ideas. Rarely do customers immediately flock to the new thing. You must show, educate and encourage people to try new things.
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 learn what we need to do to get our customers into buying mode. Engage your customers for feedback along the way and you will learn more about what they need from you in order to buy.
5. Become a money navigator
Money can be the silent barrier of growth. Take some time to learn where funding exists for similar companies at your stage of growth. Some viable sources for early-stage startups can be crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, or angels that do seed investments. Leverage entrepreneurial organizations to help you navigate this maze.
OPEN Cardmember Teresa Spangler is the founder and general partner of PlazaBridge Group, a boutique consulting firm focused on helping companies grow. She also serves on the boards of the NC World Trade Association and the Council for Entrepreneurial Development, and holds advisory-board roles with numerous growth companies.