Let’s talk about innovation in your organization.

Some clients come to us and opine that they are not innovators. That they need a new direction, they need to expand their products and services, and that they need to deal with this disruption that’s going on in their industry.

That they need to innovate. However, they feel that they are not, or cannot, be innovative. Maybe they feel that they and not doing anything exciting and interesting and new and different like you would typically be doing as a Silicon Valley company.

I’ve literally heard someone say “We don’t do anything innovative”, which, if you ask me, is impossible.

Every industry is ripe for innovation, every industry can have innovative new ideas. Every industry can change and be disrupted. However, as they compare themselves with other, seemingly more innovative companies in their space, or disrupters encroaching upon their space, they feel that there is no way that they can be as innovative as these new (and possibly disruptive) competitors.

The typical cry is that they just can’t do it: culture, systems, and technology are all conspiring to keep them from being as innovative as their more innovative competitors. But I think that’s a fallacy.

First, you are innovative, you just don’t know yet. You already have great innovators within your organization who are more innovative than your competitors.  Some people call them the “quiet geniuses” who have great ideas which are much better than what your competitors are doing. You just need to get those ideas out of their heads and into a pipeline where they can be worked on.

Those geniuses with innovative new ideas are already in your organization, coming up with these new ideas day after day. You may not be aware of them; you may be aware of some of them but you may not be aware of all of them.

You may not even be aware of the best ones or the most prolific ones, or the ones that really will give you interesting new ideas that will help you innovate and compete in your market.

You need to embrace them.  You need to pull them out.  You need to listen to them. That’s one of the things we do when we run an internal innovation program

Secondly, many of these companies seem to have a bit of an inferiority complex. They feel like they’re in second or third place; that there’s competitors that are doing better than them or are more disruptive than them. They feel that they so far behind that they can never catch up.

That mentality is the completely incorrect. Instead of catching up, you should reframe it to “leapfrogging” them. How can you do better than them? How can you jump ahead of them?

I’ve given you this example before. There are a lot of African countries that are further ahead than first world countries when it comes to telecommunications and mobile. They’ve got more services running, doing more Fintech on mobile, they are ahead of us on the mobile side of things because they never had whole landline infrastructure that we had.

They leapfrogged over the requirement to have the landline infrastructure and people got cell phones ahead of everybody else. So, what happened? Innovation occurred.

Everyone had this new tool in their hands, people who didn’t even have computers had this communications and computing device which gave people the much more ability they ever had. Without the baggage of computers and landlines, they could move more nimbly and innovate.

Thirdly, you must have everything on the table. Nothing is sacred. You must be able and willing to change even core aspects of your business. Your products, services, customer service, even your core business model may need to change for you to leapfrog your disrupters.

As one of my fellow Canadians said (Wayne Gretsky, eh?):

Don’t skate to where the puck is, skate to where the puck is going to be

In short:

  • The innovation is already within your organization, you just need to bring it out
  • Reframe the focus to leapfrog your competition instead of just catching up
  • Be willing to change all aspects of your business if you want to win.