One of my brothers visited us a while back in Valencia and we had quite a few good conversations. One of those revolved around work and providing value. You see, he works in the real estate industry and it’s a tough market to compete in. You need to consistently be offering “something better” for customers to choose you over other agents and companies. You can’t simply expect to go home, lay back, put your feet up and have the cash roll in. As our conversation continued we touched on everything from social media to online presence to customer service. This then brought us to innovation.
Now, yes you may hear innovation a lot. Every company has this written all over there powerpoint presentations and vision. I can clearly remember back in my corporate days, it was one of the keywords every executive was throwing around. However, I personally believe there is more than just innovation in and of itself. I believe in strategic innovation. Innovating at every level from micro to macro to enhance all aspects of the product lifecycle. This includes us as human beings.
See, innovation encompasses a lot of areas in both the personal and business worlds. It is absolutely vital. Why? Let us quickly rewind.
Can you look back and name some of the companies that went bankrupt in the .com bubble (Lycos, Infospace, Altavista, etc.)? Could you also name those that survived (Amazon, eBay, Priceline, etc.)? What’s the difference between the ones that are still around today and those that aren’t?
Innovation is important. Look at Blockbuster and Netflix. The world we live in is a world of consistent wants and needs and everyone is always searching for the next new thing. The key here is that you need to provide that. If your competitor gets there first, watch what may happen to your personal value or from a business perspective to your sales.
That brings me back to the conversation I had with my brother. Strategic innovation is about providing value. Not just simply having a product with a cool feature no one else has. If that were the case, SnapChat would be doing a lot better. But hey Instagram, Facebook, and co, weren’t there first, but they took down the once large giant (myspace) in a really short period.
The same goes for your personal value. If you are not strategically innovating yourself, then you will be left behind. If you are not learning new skills, applying enhancements to your day to day work, then ultimately what progress are you making?
Here a few thoughts to help you continuously think about strategic innovation on all the courts you play ball on, whether at home or at work.
Business Level – How motivated you and your employees may be is absolutely useless without knowing the entire chain of operation. You may believe that you are making progress daily, however, in reality, you may simply be at a full standstill without making any real progress. Make sure you really pinpoint the issues that are causing problems so that you fully understand where your products are today and you can clearly define where you want them to be so that you can strategically innovate between those two points. (Take the SnapChat example again – poor execution in regards to an innovative product)
Personal Level – Make sure you are able to read yourself. If you feel that you are in your comfort zone and you don’t want to learn new things, that is where the problem is. Just like in business you need to unlock your potential and create progress consistently. Learn new skills and more importantly – how to apply them. Understand where you are today and where you want to be and then strategically innovate along that line. What do you need to do to create that progress so that you can adapt and become a better version of you tomorrow?
Business Level – You need to have a very strong vision on what you want your product, services or delivery method to be so that you can really hit the mark. Don’t simply ask how you can create progress, but have very strong reasons as to why you need to innovate and be ahead of the curve. Simple answers like, “stay in business” or “create jobs” won’t cut it (at least not for me if that’s how you want me to tag along). The reasons must be specific.
Look at Apple’s late Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos of Amazon. If you have ever seen the movie Steve Jobs with Michael Fassbender in the main role, then you may remember one of the very last scenes of the movie. Steve is both specific in his vision and strategically innovative in what he is going to do next. I won’t give it away, but if you haven’t seen it then I do recommend it. The same goes for Jeff Bezos. Look at what Amazon is doing in regards to their supply chain. Consistently evolving and despite remaining strong partners with UPS, FedEx and co, are snatching away and building their own delivery empire.
Keep in mind that innovation is like ice cream flavors. They come in many variations. Regardless of what industry you are in, it’s not about the next high-tech advance or process efficiency. It can be anything from your relationship with consumers to a new perspective on how you deliver a product or service. Strategic innovation can be done anywhere and everywhere.
Personal Level – You need to have a vision for where you want to be in life. That doesn’t mean that once you graduate high school, you’ll immediately know what major you want to do in college. What that means, is understanding what your personal value is going to be, what you want to offer through your life (and that may take many years to discover) and then you’ll define the methods to strategically hit those targets. If it’s learning a new language so you can take a trip to Italy next summer. There you go. Vision set. Now, what do you need to do to get there? How will you innovate yourself?
Link Features To Sales
Business Level – Many companies do not do this. Many large companies do not even encourage employees to understand this. The sales organization is far away from the operations organization as it is to HR and so forth. However, if you do your homework and look at some of the most successful companies, you’ll notice that they continuously are able to innovate strategically because they consistently evaluate the relationship their products have to the buying behavior.
Let’s take Amazon again. They shipped DVDs for years (and still do) however, once they recognized that people were not renting from Blockbuster anymore and purchasing movies like crazy, what was the next logical innovation? Prime Video. Now one of the big players in the industry and they are killing it. The continuous tie between your products and sales will allow you to strategically innovate at any level of a company. Always think about how you are able to adjust your product or service to encourage higher returns or increase in customers or Euros per sale! Small strategical shifts in innovation can multiply your bottom line and sales growth.
Personal level – Consistently examine and reflect on who you are and what you are doing to get where you want to go. If you really want to be a good realtor, and the reason you may not be selling well is that you are strategically innovating yourself by taking guitar lessons rather then learning languages, interpersonal skills, and sales skills. Figure out how you can connect yourself to a value. In other words, if you are a great project manager, you’ll know, because the bigger the projects that come your way, must mean your personal value in sales (as people trust you to get the job done), is the way you can evaluate the value you provide. Should that not be the case, then make those incremental improvements so that you generate growth in your personal sales volume.
Strategic innovation as a skill
Business Level – Doing a quarterly review is not enough. Trust me, I remember a lot of those. Strategy and planning need to be embedded in the culture of every person, every organization and in every process. If the culture of a company encourages strategic innovation as a daily habit, consistently reassessing where you are today and where you need to be in a few months down the road, this will make all the difference. Unfortunately, this level of strategic thinking is often not taken into account at many companies. Most organizations simply push this towards their process or capabilities (engineering) team to identify the issues and fix them. However, if the determination to never stop identifying problems was across all levels of your company then new opportunities to serve customers will always pop up because of inventive approaches from (and for) employees. Remember innovation is nothing fancy. It’s not presenting to some senior executive what the next big thing will be to save a couple of Euros. It’s about a constant evolution in all areas of your business.
Personal Level – If there is one skill I recommend you learn, then it is that of strategic innovation. Many will argue its sales or marketing or product development. However, I believe if you can embed strategic innovation into your skill-set, you’ll always be ahead of the curb.
Because then you’ll truly understand what you need to execute on. You’ll have an eye on how to adapt, change, improve, acquire other skills or efficiencies that will enhance you personally. See if you are in sales, and you close a deal only half the time, the question on why comes back to strategic innovation. What needs to happen to close 75% of those deals or 99%? That is what strategic innovation encompasses. Go make it happen.
What are your thoughts on strategic innovation? How does it relate to you in your business life or your life at home? Do you think it’s a skill or am I full of s***? I’d love to hear your thoughts below or reach out on social media. Either way, improve yourself daily!