There are two popular (yet different) approaches to achieving success in business. The first way is to pursue excellence through planning and research. The second way involves taking risks, innovating and thinking outside the box. These approaches can be summarized in the following quotes:
“Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.” – Walt Disney
“Because the People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.“ – Steve jobs
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable, one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” – George Bernard Shaw
I argue you can pursue the best of both planning and innovating by integrating strategies, using planning to accelerate innovation.
Specifically, planning should be focused to accelerate innovation and testing alternatives (rather than following a bunch of rules). In contrast, innovation must include execution (not just on developing great ideas). There are a number of suggested practices to achieve this balance, based on your business needs:
1. Test and Analyze
The most effective way to balance these two goals is to test, test, test. This doesn’t have to be expensive: especially with tools like the internet, market research, 3D printing, sharing platforms and others. I recently reviewed several programs with seemingly great potential, but they had not really developed a product and had done little market research. That is not stifling innovation as some claim. Rather, it is focusing on alternatives and ideas that stimulate innovation. As Edison said, testing can even be accomplished with simple analysis and simulations. Most forecasts are based on traditional accounting ideas, with static models and one-answer solutions.
We have a developed a simple profit model (download here) that lets you understand the parameters of changing factors, like cost, price, volume, distribution, and marketing. This can provide an understanding of the interaction (and potential outcomes) of various alternatives.
2. Commit to Excellence
Excellence is identifying, nurturing, and realizing the potential of excellent people. While it is easy to extol the virtues of excellence, it is harder to implement the strategies that give rise to excellence. For example, excellent people often tend to be independent by nature, and they require a culture that encourages their energy, determination, and focus. Empowering employees both encourages satisfied customers, and motivates employees to experience more success.
Many companies say they are committed to excellence, but just give lip service to the term. On the other hand, some companies are truly committed to excellence. Examples of such organizations include, Ritz Carlton Hotels, Nordstrom’s, and L.L. Bean. These companies have truly embraced business excellence at the heart of their identity, vision and mission. Excellence permeates every aspect of these organizations.
3. Take More Risks by Exploring Alternatives
Consider more risk in our changing environment. I suggest changing your business culture to encourage more risk-taking. I often say, “If you aren’t making mistakes, you aren’t trying hard enough.” Mistakes mean that you and your business are growing; make mistakes and learn to adapt. Consistently exploring alternatives and evaluating your decisions will help you figure out what’s working.
4. Capitalize on Evolving Resources
In particular, the shared economy and the internet should be integral aspects of your efforts to introduce innovation. Businesses, like Uber and Airbnb, aren’t going anywhere any time soon, and they’ve paved the way for more innovation in small and big businesses alike.
Google, Facebook, and Amazon affect almost every business, and they must be considered for their possible roles as a supplier, customer, vendor, or information sources. In addition, the cloud and analytics are providing numerous tools to better manage and develop more profitable businesses. There are a number of other new tools that can be examined in developing “out of the box solutions.” These include crowdfunding, AI, new technologies, market research tools (like Survey Monkey), and E-Mail managers (like Constant Contact).
When I was getting a Ph.D. from M.I.T. several decades ago, most Ph.D. candidates spent months developing customized programs for their thesis. I found a package that included a sophisticated data analysis program that I could adapt, and I finished my thesis about 6 months early. Note: this was several years before Excel and PCs were available!
5. Have Fun
Overall, the most important thing to keep in mind to balance planning and innovation is to enjoy what you are doing. You started your business because you had passion… don’t lose that! If you’re truly happy doing what you’re doing, your customers will want to buy into it. They will feed off of your excitement!
In summary, you have to be crazy enough to change. You have to give emerging business trends more than just a passing thought, or else you may miss out on opportunities. Consider multiple and dynamic alternatives, goals and methods. For example, goals like profit versus growth, can change radically based on business conditions. In addition, open cultures, diversity, testing, and allowing deviant behavior (to some degree), can add excitement to an organization and help produce special results.
Want some one-on-one time with someone who’s been there and done that? Contact me!
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