“The riskiest thing we can do is just maintain the status quo. “
Bob Iger – Disney CEO
As business owners, innovation can seem both a risky and costly exercise. It feels easier to leave things be rather than change things up and take a chance on something new. Without certain success, it’s just too big a risk to take, right?
As Disney CEO Bob Iger once declared, staying put and maintaining the status quo poses a bigger risk to your business than embracing innovation. If you think the risk or the cost of taking action is too great, it’s time for a reality check.
Because if you don’t push yourself forward, someone else will. If that happens, disruption follows and you’ll be left in the dust of your competitors. If you don’t embrace innovation & withstand disruption NOW, you’ll be a sitting duck for the next start-up success story.
Let’s face it, no one wants to be THAT business.
Why innovation is so important
At its most basic level, innovation drives progress. Through innovation, you can solve problems, increase profit, boost your market share and get the edge on your competition. With new and better ways of operating, innovation helps drive:
- cost savings
- brand awareness
Innovation delivers all these benefits to your business while also protecting it from internal and external threats. Without innovation, your business will struggle to remain relevant and competitive in your industry, which can lead to:
- reduced market share
- falling productivity
- decreased efficiency
- increased staff attrition
- lower margins
- reduced revenue
- susceptibility to disruption
- potential loss of your business.
If innovation is so important (and delivers so many benefits), why are so many business owners wary of embracing it?
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The big misconception about innovation
Innovation is often seen as a huge undertaking, something that needs to be done at scale – a process that’s big, scary and fraught with risk. When people think of innovation, they often picture a big transformation, a process where products, services or technology solutions are completely overhauled. No wonder innovation is seen by many to be costly and risky.
Innovation CAN be a massive undertaking but that’s not the only way to make progress (and it’s certainly not the most efficient). A more effective approach to innovation is to incorporate incremental changes into business as usual (BAU). Being able to adapt as you go makes your business more responsive to a dynamic environment and less susceptible to disruption.
If innovation is embraced as a BAU process and embedded in your daily activities, it suddenly becomes far less risky and costly. Adopting an approach of ongoing change means your business is always moving forward. It builds a culture of curiosity, courage and creativity and helps your business to be in pole position when disruption comes calling.
So, how can you embrace innovation and withstand disruption in today’s changing business environment?
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5 ways to build innovation into your BAU processes
Shift your mindset
The first step is to shift your mindset and welcome innovation into everyday life. As economist Theodore Levitt observed, “Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things. “An innovative mindset doesn’t require a new invention every single day. It requires open minds and a culture of experimentation to explore how things can be done better.
View innovation as a capability, rather than as an abstract concept. This means questioning processes, considering new approaches and seeking to find new ways to solve old problems. Set the precedent for transformation, and start by looking at your business from the other side of the fence – through the eyes of your customer.
TAKE ACTION: Review the customer journey with your team. Seek feedback and identify ways to deliver a smoother and more satisfying experience.
In the face of disruption, a global pandemic and economic uncertainty, individual and business resilience is in great demand. The ability to withstand, adapt and thrive through crises and disasters is a skill we all need to develop, particularly in times like this. It’s not like change is suddenly going to disappear overnight once this is all over (as much as we might wish that).
Instead of lamenting how much is changing and how hard it is to keep up, resilience means looking at the long game. It’s about seeing past the challenges and recognising the opportunities that ARE there. Often crises can be the impetus for innovation and change. Just think about the zoom revolution of 2020 when we all first headed into lockdown!
Embrace systems thinking
Systems thinking involves looking closely at a whole process to identify all dependencies and understand all possible impacts of a decision before taking action. Systems thinking highlights interrelationships in your processes, so you get the whole picture, allowing your business to develop holistic solutions to long-standing issues.
Applying systems thinking improves problem-solving and fosters collaboration by harnessing the knowledge and skills of your broader team. Highlighting how a decision may impact the wider organisation, using a collaborative systems thinking approach, helps resolve long-term problems, manage the needs of multiple stakeholders and deal with conflicting interests.
TAKE ACTION: Map out all the dependencies in your current marketing strategy. Highlight possible impacts, take note of all stakeholders and identify new possibilities.
Accept change as the norm
Alibaba founder, Jack Ma, sees change, not stability, as the default. To embrace innovation, it’s time for all of us to do the same. There never will be a “right time” to try something new and there’s no point waiting for things to “settle down” before taking action. Change is now the norm (it always has been) and your business needs to accept that fact to survive.
With this acceptance, your business can move forward with a proactive approach to continuous innovation. Instead of looking for the right time to begin a total overhaul, you can embrace iterative, incremental adjustments to your processes to stay competitive and meet the needs of customers (which is also easier to manage and less risky than a one-shot transformation).
TAKE ACTION: Look at your current marketing efforts and identify 3 ways you can incorporate omnichannel marketing into your approach to meet the changing demands of customers.
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See the big picture
If innovation is a capability, rather than a concept, it’s important to find ways to maintain and update your skills. This is where blue sky and big picture thinking come to the fore. Innovation is about finding new ways to do things. Often, this means looking outside your industry for fresh approaches to innovation as well as opening your mind to new ideas beyond the business world.
Jeff Hoffman, former CEO of Priceline, starts his day with 20 minutes of “info-sponging.” He looks beyond his industry to identify innovations across the globe, filtering the information he gathers through the eyes of his customers to come up with new ideas for his own business. To embrace innovation & withstand disruption, it pays to seek inspiration from all sources.
TAKING ACTION: Spend 30 minutes a week “info-sponging.” Trawl the internet for innovative ideas from other industries and note down what you find to get your creative juices flowing.
As a business owner, innovation should be a key pillar of your business and marketing strategy. Instead of viewing innovation as a big process you need to do “one day,” build innovation into your BAU activity to generate continuous improvement. The benefits of innovation are too big to ignore. As for the risk of NOT taking action – that cost could be higher than you think.
Marketing Sense is here to guide your small business toward marketing success, focusing on helping you embrace innovation and withstand disruption. Give us a call to discuss your needs and download your FREE copy of our Brand Statement Worksheet to get crystal clear on your business, your offering, your audience, and your competition.
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