Innovation Paralysis

analysisparalysis

 

Many companies talk about innovation. Being innovative or even inventive can sound inspiring to prospective investors and employees. The promise of innovation can often attract new talent or keep impatient customers at bay. Hold tight, our new and improved version is on its way. We’re innovating as we speak.

The fact is the most companies aren’t innovative at all. Most are copycats. Copying another company’s idea is easier to do and carries less risk (assuming you’re not infringing on any copyright or patent laws). After all they’re the ones who have invested in true innovation.

For the most part, companies – even yours, may struggle with innovating. The biggest reasons for this struggle can be attributed to fear. Perceived fear is an emotion so powerful that it stops most of us in our tracks from taking action. It’s a mind game that creates countless scenarios that fill us with thoughts of failure and ridicule. We forget that most of the greatest inventions and innovations in history were the result of countless failures. Think of Ford, Edison, Jobs, and even JP Morgan. The fact is that failure fuels passion and passion produces results.

Strong leadership is required to lead an innovative company. If the CEO, owner, or leader lack the confidence required to discuss failures experienced by trying to innovate then a company simply won’t innovate. Unfortunately companies that take a follow-the-leader approach typically end up becoming irrelevant. The list is long and includes names like Kodak, Zenith, Pontiac, and Circuit City.

How do you know if your company is a company of innovation? Ask these questions?

1. Where are your growth ideas initiated in your company?
2. Was anyone ever fired for trying a new idea? Responsibly?
3. How often does denial come into your team meetings? The general belief is that alls well.
4. Are there regular meetings where idea generation is the only thing discussed?
5. Are off-the-wall, wild ideas solicited or is there more of a play-it-safe mentality that permeates your company?

These questions will provide insight into just how committed to innovation your company is.

Start Innovating: The One Question to Start the Discussion

Question

Is your business stuck in a rut? Are sales slow, stagnant, or even declining? Is your product commoditized or becoming irrelevant? How should you move forward?

The answer for most companies is obvious…innovate. The problem is not in the what, but in the how. Innovation is a challenge for even the very best and impossible for the newbies to the game of innovation.

Mature companies that produce known products or deliver staple-like services are the most prone to the innovation dilemma. They’ve done what they’ve done for so long that the mere test of time suggests they know what the markets need and what their buyers want. Arrogance and complacency drive their strategies and plans, and often times they are able to putter along treading water, buying time for “things to change”. They are not change leaders but change followers.

Here’s a simple question you can ask those you work with to get an innovation discussion going: What would Amazon or Google do? If Jeff Bezos owned this company, or Sergey Brin, what would they do to change things?

It’s quite possible the owner or other executives will balk and provide sarcastic responses like, “he’d probably dump the business”, or “if we had Amazon’s brand recognition we’d be in the clear”, or even “they’ve got millions to spend to do whatever they want we don’t.” Try to keep them focused. Remind them that each of these companies began as a dream and then moved into the realm of small business. They didn’t start out as the financial behemoths they are today. Each time their businesses got comfortable they broke them and started working on something new…consciously. If you had to break your business today how would you do it and what would you focus on next?

Innovation is not easy. It’s scary, unpredictable, uncertain, risky, and can be terrifying. To not innovate can actually lead to all of the same emotions. So if that’s true isn’t it better to be in control than to be controlled.

Ask that question today.

A Few Thoughts On Change

Change

I recently had an interaction with a group of folks embarking on a new change.  Like most recipients of change there was hesitation and apprehension. Normal emotions that typically accompany change. When we are faced with change it’s human nature to question, doubt, fear, and distrust the impending change. First reactions are often negative with a sense of “OMG what now!”.

Years ago I had a boss teach me a method for adapting to change. I have used this technique several times and have found it to be calming, enlightening, and in many cases beneficial in helping me adapt to the change I was facing. It all starts with changing your paradigm on change.

Life’s biggest change-fests include getting a new job, a new boss, having a new child, getting married for the first time (and hopefully the only time), starting a new school, making new friends, or working with a new agency partner. All these changes bring a level of stress that includes many of the emotions I listed above. One way to eliminate those butterflies in your stomach when facing change is by asking yourself one question. Resist the urge to predict the future this change will create and ask yourself one simple question: What good will this change bring me?

A new job can bring new and exciting experiences. A new boss can provide new insights, coaching, development, and opportunities. Changing to a new school opens the doors to new friends, programs, activities. Getting married provides stability, support, love, and a safe place to land when you need one. All changes bring opportunities. Unfortunately, and most likely due to past experiences, we tend to immediately go to the negative when it comes to how we perceive change.

Remember this. Nothing improves without changing something. Tide, Crest, Cadillac, Apple, Wegmans, Nordstrom are all companies that continue to innovate and change, and it’s in these changes that these companies prosper and flourish. The same is true with people. Phil Mickelson changes his approach and improves his golf game. Peyton Manning changes his training routine and improves his passing efficiency. No matter what the case, change has to occur before things can get better. So next time you’re faced with a change don’t panic. Just ask yourself, “how will this change benefit me”. Not will it benefit but how. Assume it’s for the good and it will be.