For most people I meet, innovation is something that’s really hard. You want your company to be more innovative, yet it always feels like your pushing rocks uphill. I bet you’re even sick and tired of dragging your people along every time you want to try something new. This week we’re going to talk about that very subject. How you can go from seeing innovation as a chore to innovation is just something this is naturally done in your company.
You know, the one thing I’m sure that you don’t wanna have happen in your company is your brand becomes irrelevant. It might not be your brand. It could be the service offerings or how you provide your offerings to your customers.
You know, the world is changing, and you don’t wanna get left behind. Instead, I’m sure you want an innovation process that keeps you at the forefront of your industry and sets you apart from your competition.
You know, for most people I meet, innovation is something that’s really, really, really hard. You want your company to be more innovative, yet it always feels like you’re pushing rocks uphill. I bet you’re even sick and tired of dragging your people along every time you wanna try something new, or at least, that’s been true for me over the years.
This week, we’re going to talk about that very subject, how you can go from seeing innovation as a chore to innovation is just something that is naturally done in your company.
So, let’s jump right in.
- You know, the first thing I think you should think about is becoming what I call a fail fast, fail cheap company.
- You know, this means you have to adopt a culture of mistakes. Now, a culture of mistakes doesn’t mean that you’re gonna go around wanting people to do mistakes. It means that you recognize that people do make mistakes, and this is especially true in the innovation process. You know, I was on a call the other day, and I was talking about the fact that almost nothing I do actually works. And it’s true. There are very few things that I try that actually get a lot of traction and we go forward with, but I make tons and tons of small experiments. And when those small experiments don’t work, I let them go. That’s a mistake. So, when I make a mistake, I don’t beat myself up about it. I don’t say, “Woe is me.” I don’t try to blame other people. I just say, “Well, that didn’t work, let’s move on,” and not feel bad about it.
- And you have to do lots of small experiments to get to that point. If you’re putting a lot of time and energy into your innovation process for every step of the way you do, there’s a pretty good chance you’re never gonna get anything done because you’ve put in so much effort and it might be going down the wrong road, and you’re not willing to let it go. So, if you do lots of small experiments along the way, you’re gonna be far better off.
- And you have to set up your company for these things to be easy. You know, if you make mistakes being hard, if you make mistakes in fail fast, fail cheap in small experiments hard things to do in your company, they’re not gonna be done. It has to be easy. People don’t wanna do things like they feel are really tough. They wanna take small steps where they’re gonna be rewarded when it works and not punished when it doesn’t work.
- So, here’s another thing you wanna be doing, and this is, I think, really important. You wanna reward your people for getting out of their comfort zone.
- You wanna celebrate the tries. You don’t wanna celebrate and say, “Oh, it’s great! “We made a mistake, yay!” No, we don’t wanna do that. What we do wanna do is say, “You know, that’s a nice try. “What else can we do? “That’s a nice try. “What else can we do? “That’s a nice try. “What else can we do?” That’s the sort of things we wanna be doing. If it’s, somebody tries and it doesn’t work, you say, “Okay, well, that didn’t work. “We know we wanna get to this outcome. “Is there another way for us to do it?” And that’s the important thing to do is to keep thinking about what’s next, what’s next, what’s next.
- And the hard part is not to make tries what you want. The hard part is to make tries part of what you do along the road to success.
- You wanna teach your people that it might take several failures before you see something that works. In fact, that’s pretty much the way the world is. If you don’t see failures as part of the road to success, you’re never gonna start down that road. And when you do have a failure, you’re gonna stop and go into the woe is me phase. You don’t wanna be in the woe is me phase. You wanna be moving forward as you do this. Now, here’s something else you wanna be doing.
- Make sure you don’t wait ’til it’s perfect. This is such a huge problem I see people do. “I can’t launch yet, it’s not ready!” Guess what? It’s probably never gonna be ready.
- If you launch at 70%, I recently did a video about this. Go back and watch it, ’cause I think it’s got some good stuff in there. And the 70% is where you should start. Maybe 60%, sometimes even 50%. Sometimes it’s zero. You just say, “Here’s an idea. “What do you folks think?” The truth is, you have to get your ideas out there, see how they’re accepted in the marketplace. You see if people are interested in what you’re doing. If you’re not, let it go and move on to something else. I will promise you, there are tons of things that you do that others will be interested in having. You just have to figure out what it is and how to talk about it.
- You know, when you go with 70%, you’re letting the market help you figure out what you should be doing. And if you don’t get that market feedback, there’s a really good chance you could spend a year or two or three years trying to put something together, you launch it, and you find out nobody wants it. Now, how are you gonna feel about that? But if I try small, little steps along the way and I put them out there, and I put them out there, and I put them out there to see what my customers or potential customers are thinking, I’m probably gonna get some pretty good, innovative ideas.
- You have to learn to let things go that don’t work. Now, the reason I keep saying don’t put a lot of effort into a try is that there’s a behavioral economics principle called sunk costs. And what sunk cost just means is that the more effort you put into something, the harder it is for you to let go. So, when you fail fast, fail cheap, we’re really working against that sunk cost behavioral mechanism that we as humans have.
- You wanna bring your customers and line people into the process. Now, I’m gonna tell you something that you may not know, or you probably know, but you never thought about it, most likely.
- Your customers are the experts at what they want and your people are the experts at how they will deliver it. Why, because your people are in there every day doing it. So, if you’re not bringing line people into your innovation process, you’re really missing the boat. If you’re not bringing your customers into the innovation process, you’re really missing the boat. Both can help you move faster and help you understand what’s working and what’s not. Innovation shouldn’t be a top-down activity, it should be a bottom-up activity, and bottom-up activity means your customers and your line workers are integral to what you’re doing.
- You know, sometimes your ideas will be things that your customers had never thought about, and that’s something you need to be really aware of. You know, Apple, I mean, Steve jobs was famous for this. Says, “I never talk to my customers about what they want. “They don’t know.” Well, that’s sometimes true and it’s sometimes not true. I will tell you that what your customers want is how you solve their problems if you’re solving their problems in the appropriate way. So, you do wanna bring the customers in there. Once you know what the problem is, sometimes you’re gonna bring something to the table they never thought about. You know, I used to have guarantees in my vending company we would never run out of seven or eight items. As far as I know, we were the only person in any company in the country that did that. And it really became about, was a problem we were trying to solve for our customers. And we came up with this really innovative idea. Our competition thought we were nuts. Our customers loved it. And the reason was, is that we thought about what it is with the problem we were trying to solve.
- And the next thing you need to do, and this is really important. Your innovation process should be systematized. It should be a system that you do. You should have steps that go along the way that work best for how you innovate in your company. When you make it into a system, what you start doing is you wash, rinse, repeat. You use the Head and Shoulders methodology for creating new ideas and new things in your company.
So, in review, here are three easy steps to make innovation part of your company.
- Number one, become a fail fast, fail cheap company. Small experiments will rule the day.
- Number two, reward your people for getting out of their comfort zone. You know, the truth is, innovation requires you to get out of your comfort zone. And the bad thing about that is we as humans don’t wanna do that. It’s not comfortable for us. When you start rewarding people to get a little bit out of your comfort zones, what you’re gonna find is they start doing it more and more and more, ’cause that’s what they’re getting rewarded for.
- And three, finally, systematize what you do for success.
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Hey, this is Josh Patrick. You’re at “The Sustainable Business.” Thanks a lot for stopping by. I hope to see you back here really soon.