The Secret to Building a Sustainable Business is Innovation
2021 Update: I originally wrote this post in 2015. The biggest change is the speed at which the digital transformation has leveraged artificial intelligence (AI) to change every industry exponentially. It is more important than ever for leaders to embrace automation, AND “up-skill” human talent to fully adapt to the age of intelligent machines.
Below is my original post from 2015:
Success Requires Innovation and Courage
Innovation is a quality many businesses and brands lack, as demonstrated by the 86% failure rate of the Fortune 500 Businesses of 1955. Yet, innovation alone will not build a sustainable business. It requires courage.
Companies that play it safe, rest on their laurels, and refuse to change with the times, pay the ultimate price and become a statistic in the history of obsolescence.
When success is rigidly managed, and fear of tinkering with a good thing overrides the ability to continually adapt to emerging trends and customer expectations – innovation dies. – Rebecca Murtagh
Brands who have built innovation into their DNA have done more than survived the test of time – they are successful. Apple comes to mind. I recall having a conversation with a friend when Apple (APPL) stock dropped to $14 dollars a share in the late 1990’s. He thought he should dump it. As an Apple user from my early days in graphic design, I explained that I believed Apple would reinvent itself and always have an audience. Apple/Mac Users were extremely loyal because the one thing they had learned to rely upon was Apple’s dedication to continual innovation. The introduction of the iPod, then later the iPhone and iPad would prove me right. On June 7, 2014, Apple stock split 7 for 1 from the stock price of $645.57 on Friday June 6, 2014. Apple continues to innovate.
Break Out From The Crowd
Innovation Requires Veering From the Expected to Create a New Path
A brand can gain market share by doing something better than the competition. A brand becomes a market leader by creating an entirely new solution- which can be risky. It takes courage to break from the crowd. With great risk comes great reward.
An excellent example is Henry Ford, who said:
“If I’d have asked my customers what they wanted, they would have told me ‘A faster horse.”
Solutions like the automobile, personal computer, mobile phone, MP3 player, bottled water and countless other innovations created new behaviors because they deviated from the expected to create something entirely new – creating demand for solutions consumers, “the crowd”, never knew they wanted or needed.
5 Steps to Build a Sustainable Business Culture
- Promote Forward Thinking.
Integrate strategic planning into every job description. When a business is well constructed, every role, from the CEO to software architect to marketing assistant and customer service representative plays vital role in day-to-day operations. Opportunities to fill their role, improve efficiency and identify problems that need solutions. No one role is equipped to solve a problem; however bubbling up insight from each role within the organization can significantly enhance the ability for an organization to innovate. Whether it is a sales person with direct exposure to customers, marketers with access to trending data, or technologist with a finger on the pulse of new technology it- is the effective collaboration of individuals with an eye on always improving that will keep the focus moving forward.
The kiss of death for any business is their inability to recognize opportunity and act upon it. It is imperative, especially in today’s quickly evolving digital landscape, to be listening for information that impacts success in any way. Consumer behaviors, technology advancements, industry trends, customer feedback and actions by competitors can alter the path of success in the blink of an eye. Crowd Success™ reflects the collective feedback, contributions and support from each member of the organization according to their unique perspective and relationship with you and your goals. Strong leadership, dedicated to moving the ball forward will make or break the ability of an organization to chart a path toward sustainability.
- Don’t Judge.
Some of the craziest ideas can lead to viable innovation. A culture that promotes creative thinking will identify the ‘next big thing’ much faster than the organization that is rigidly holding on to ride the wave of past successes. Change is difficult for many. And, for some, status quo is simply easier. Leaders that recognize aversion to change in their management team have an opportunity to retrain or bring in individuals that are 100% committed to innovation and can effectively manage resources for optimum performance and sustainability.
- Take Risks.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained. You can’t get ahead if you are unwilling to take a bold step forward. Testing, focus groups and data analysis go a long way toward validating viability of innovations, and provide opportunity to tweak and improve before going to market. Even when all signs are go, you must be prepared to fail. You may have a winner, or simply the solution that will lead you to the next innovation that will be the ultimate winner. Either way, nothing is gained if the courage to try is not there.
- Reward Innovation.
Human behavior can be difficult to influence or modify. Innovation may come more naturally to some than others. Inspiration and motivation can get the wheels of thought churning. Rewarding innovation within your organization when it produces results, and even when it just gets you to the next level, can provide the catalyst for your team to put their thinking caps on. And, if you really want to promote a culture of creative contribution, give credit where credit is due.
Those who fail to innovate are destined to be left behind.