This is an article that I originally wrote for the Worcester Business Journal. The link is posted here.
“I like your ideas, but we’ve always done things this way”. Oftentimes we tend to be resistant to change, and find comfort in maintaining the status quo. Not being intentional about Innovation can mean the difference between delivering the same results, or experiencing a breakout year in your business or career. Some of the biggest opportunities to accelerate growth within your organization can come from thinking differently about how we embrace innovation as part of our daily actions. There are three foundational steps we can take to welcome innovation and make it a practice within your company culture.
1) Challenge yourself to question the status quo
As business leaders, we often tend to accept how things have always been done without question. These deep rooted mental models can drive away new ways to approach challenges, leaving us with the same predictable outcomes. Don’t be afraid to question everything as doing this can uncover answers that may not have been considered. We should check our egos at the door since questioning everything may reveal that our current way of thinking may be outdated, or even worse, limit our ability to compete effectively. The result of questioning the status quo can stimulate new and innovative ways of understanding what our customers truly require.
2) Network to understand the customers wants
Challenged with more global competition and shorter technology lifecycles, it can become increasingly more difficult to keep up with the pace of advances in innovation that consumers have become accustomed to. Remember that little book delivery company called Amazon? Jeff Bezos used networking with his customers to recognize they also wanted to receive DVDs and electronics in the same way they purchased books. Through networking, Amazon shed light on the customers true “Job to be done” and became a powerhouse in the distribution of goods and services beyond just being an online bookstore. Networking enables you to take on new thoughts that are distinct from our central aptitudes within our own industries. When you have an opportunity to speak with your customers, suppliers or employees, take it. Take the time to network with thought leaders outside of your industry. You never know what innovative ideas can be generated through changing this one daily action.
3) See failure as an acceptable result
Some organizations see failure as a badge of dishonor, which discourages us from taking even the most measured risks. This attitude towards failure is part of what’s persisting the “status quo” mindset. Those that have not failed have not taken enough risks, and the result of this could be stagnant growth within your organization. Accepting failure must be part of accelerating the introduction of new ideas. We all understand that we are beholden to our current commitments, but we should not be prisoners to our operating plans. In your organization, you should endeavor to foster an attitude towards accepting failure, but we should also encourage failing fast and pivoting to a direction that can lead towards successful outcomes.
Making time for innovation isn’t an easy thing, but through adopting these simple practices we can even incrementally move the needle forward on our ability to advance growth.