William C. Taylor is the founding editor of Fast Company and author of Practically Radical: Not-So-Crazy Ways to Transform Your Company, Shake Up Your Industry, and Challenge Yourself. He believes we are living in the age of disruption, so we can’t do big things anymore if we’re content with doing things a little better than everyone else or a little differently than we did them before.
I asked him to come with a list of the top ten ways to help you and your company get “practically radical,” and here’s what he provided:
1. Focus on opportunities the competition doesn’t see.
French novelist Marcel Proust famously said, “The real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands but in seeing with new eyes.” What goes for novelists goes for innovators. The most successful companies don’t just out-compete their rivals. They redefine the terms of competition by embracing one-of-a-kind ideas in a world of me-too thinking.
2. Develop new ideas about where to look for new ideas.
There’s always a place for R&D as research and development. But there’s also a place for R&D as rip-off and duplicate: Ideas and practices that are routine in one industry can be revolutionary when they migrate to another industry, especially when they challenge the conventional wisdom that defines so many industries.
3. Become the "most" of something.
It’s just not good enough to be “pretty good” at everything anymore. You have to be the most of something: the most affordable, the most accessible, the most elegant, the most colorful, the most transparent. What are you the most of -- and how do you become more of that?
4. Answer the most important questions.
If your company went out of business tomorrow, who would miss you and why? Why might a company be missed? Because its products and services are so distinctive, its culture is so unique, or it mission so compelling. Few organizations meet any other these criteria, which may be why so many companies feel like they’re on the verge of going out of business.
5. Figure out how your company’s history can shape its future.
The essence of creativity, says psychologist Jerome Bruner, is “figuring out how to use what you already know in order to go beyond what you already think.” That’s why the most creative leaders I’ve met don’t disavow what’s come before. Sometimes, the act of rediscovering the past creates the clarity and confidence necessary to craft a distinctive game plan for the future.
6. Lavish your attention on customers who can’t live without you.
The market researchers at Gallup have identified a hierarchy of connections between companies and their customers, from confidence to integrity to pride to passion. To test for passion, Gallup asks a simple question of the customers they interview on behalf of clients: “Can you imagine a world without” this product or brand? Remember, if your customers can live without you, eventually they will.
7. Make sure your employees care more than the competition.
Success is about thinking differently from the competition. But it’s also about caring more than the competition -- about customers, about colleagues, about how the company conducts itself in a world with endless opportunities to cut corners. Companies built around distinctive ideas are at their best when rank-and-file colleagues share deep emotions.
8. Unleash the best contributions from the most people.
It may be lonely at the top, but change is not a game best played by loners. These days, the most powerful contributions come from the most unexpected places -- the hidden genius inside your company, the collective genius of customers, suppliers and other smart people who surround your company. Remember, nobody alone is as smart as everybody together.
9. Stay consistent to your commitment to change.
Pundits love to excoriate companies because they don’t have the guts to change. In fact, the problem with so many organizations is that all they do is change. They lurch from one consulting firm to the next, from last year’s hot management fad to this year’s model. Jim Collins offers this warning: “The signature of mediocrity is not an unwillingness to change. The signature of mediocrity is chronic inconsistency.”
10. Start learning as fast as the world is changing.
In a world that never stops changing, great leaders can never stop learning. Are you learning as fast as the world is changing?
If you need to get radical, get Practically Radical: Not-So-Crazy Ways to Transform Your Company, Shake Up Your Industry, and Challenge Yourself, check out Bill’s website, and follow him on Twitter at @PracticallyRadical.