Picture by Fastcompany.com
Steve Jobs and Richard Branson talk about joining the dots when they talk about innovation. The ‘What is Innovation” video is such a great explanation of seeing and connecting the dots relating to innovation from “Simply Explain”.
I often debate innovation with clients. What is it? How do you do it? How can we get better at it? and How can we make money from it?
Innovation is not about focusing on designing new systems, services or products. Firstly it is about looking at your dots and seeing how you can join them in such a way as to be able to create a unique service or product offering. Secondly it is about looking at your current or potential customers and joining their dots in such a way as to be able to create a unique service or product offering for them or their business.
BUT mostly it is about looking at your dots and those of your customer and joining them in such a way as to add unexpected value to your customer. If you get it right they will willingly pay you for that added value. Just look at how the teams at Apple and Virgin connected their dots resulting in innovations that their customers willingly paid them for.
The best definition I have found is that Innovation is ‘creating new value or capturing value in a new way’. It should be simple, practical and saleable delivering a positive effective change.
Earlier this year I discussed how to create innovations you can sell by thinking backwards. http://afrilean.com/think-backwards-to-create-innovations-you-can-sell/
I hope this helps you connect your dots.
Earlier this year I had the privilege to facilitate and present at a Strategic Sales conference. The theme of the conference was ‘we all have ability – the difference is how you use it’. Fascinating discussions arose around individual skills and strengths (their super powers) and how to use them in the business as a whole rather than limit them to a specific branch. As in system thinking the true power of a business is recognised when people start working together towards a common goal. (The group/system is more powerful that the sum of the parts) In the process the team communicated across multiple levels and the fresh ideas and innovations put forward were used in developing a strategy execution plan. The result has been a 15% increase in GP over 6 months.
The 7 steps to maximising your super powers are:
- Know yourself. Understand what your strengths are and just as importantly what your weaknesses are.
- Talk to others in your team and find out what their strengths and weaknesses are. You might need to go first to make the communication more transparent.
- Identify your business goals. What do you want to have done by the end of the year to achieve your strategy. Companies often call these CSF’s or critical success factors.
- As a team look at your strengths (in the team) and plan on how to best use these to achieve your business goals.
- Identify what weaknesses you have in the team and how you can reduce or eliminate them using the team strengths.
- Draw up a plan of action showing actions, responsible people and time lines.
- Measure progress monthly. Often plans need to be fine tuned because of changes in the company, market, customer or competitor.
Noah had a ‘blue ocean strategy’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpb9UgXWf6Q setting him apart from everyone else, he used disruptive innovation https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qDrMAzCHFUU in finding solutions that were not expected and typically designed for a different set of customers.
Let us compare the three values Noah used while building the Ark against what we are expected to do for our customers today.
Availability – Noah and his family (team) were involved in planning and building the Ark, sourcing provisions and then collecting the animals. Noah and his family were always available to look after the animals with their needs. Noah did not delegate problems but solved them with the help of his team. Today our customers want the same level of availability from us and our teams. They want us to be there for them to answer questions, help solve problems and offer advice. They also want to know that they can always get the products or services we offer within a reasonable period of time.
Reliability – Noah made a promise to build the Ark and fill it with animals. Even though he went through some difficult times he persevered and delivered on his promise. Reliability is a cornerstone of trust. If our customers can rely on what we say and do it creates a trust relationship leading to a partnership. Customers buy from people they trust.
Knowledge – Noah had specific knowledge that floods were coming and with that knowledge became indispensable in executing the plan. Market and product knowledge can be used in the same way when shared with our customers through training sessions or strategic conversations. The power we gain from sharing knowledge with our customers and teams will lead to them seeking us out for advice. The more knowledge shared the greater our expert power.