Advance. Or Die.
OK, you are not going to die but rather the company you own or work for will – maybe. It’s no surprise that continuously looking for, and executing opportunities to make your business better is a necessity. Unless you are advancing more rapidly than your competition, you are moving backwards. Do you think your competition is sitting back waiting for things to happen? Some are. But some are not. The latter are aggressively improving – or perhaps reinventing – their business in response to financial, market, customer or competitive pressures.
I have always had respect and admiration for companies that successfully develop or utilize technology. Further back than I would care to admit (my computer was a 286 Compaq if that gives you any idea) I was keen to learn how new technology was impacting businesses and their efforts to innovate and compete for customers.
General Electric recently released a report based on an independent survey of 1,000 business executives in 12 countries. The “GE Global Innovation Barometer” looks at big-picture innovation questions such as economic policy, national growth, innovation drivers, likely opportunities where innovation will have the most societal impact and so on. Now, “innovation” can be considered the extreme of “advancement”. Innovation, in my view, is a game-changer and disruptive like the iPod, Amazon etc. These are well-known consumer examples but in each industry there are companies that break new ground and change the rules.
The GE survey highlights some interesting thoughts for small business and individuals.
- 75% of executives Strongly Agree that SMEs and individuals can be as innovative as large companies
- 69% Strongly Agree that innovation is driven more by people’s creativity than by high level scientific research
- 76% Strongly Agree that, more than ever, innovation needs to be localized to serve specific market needs
- 75% Strongly Agree that the way companies will innovate in the 21st century is totally different than the way they have innovated in the past.
The GE survey focuses on technology innovation with a global perspective. But, does this mean that the results have no relevance to smaller businesses? I don’t think so. Notice that SMEs (Small and Medium Enterprise) and individuals were prominently mentioned.
And what if your company doesn’t build new technology? What if you are in retail? A rare, few companies will develop and introduce a disruptive new innovation that redefines the rules (i.e. iPod). But even without ground breaking innovation, every business needs to advance the way they do business if they want to grow. Maybe your advancement is a unique and better customer buying experience, superior training for managers and staff, leapfrogging your competition by employing technology, a new customer service model, etc.
If you believe, as these 1000 leaders do, that innovation is the key to growth, then how are you going to foster and tap into the creativity of your people? How are you developing your staff and what environment do you have in place so they can express their views? What about execution? Unless the idea gets successfully executed, it is still just an idea. And, if you have been an innovation leader in the past, how are you going to maintain that energy and ability to deliver? I bet you can name a tech giant or two that is struggling to keep pace with the competition’s new product and service offerings.
Successful business owners and entrepreneurs know that there is always a better way, always an opportunity. Relying on past successes as an indicator of future performance, or not delivering a product or service that is somehow superior compared to your competition, is a recipe for a slow or quick death. You don’t want to die, do you? That’s a rhetorical question.