I led a small workshop last week after an event, focused on the issue of “how can we establish opportunities for growth during an economic downturn.”
The cover of my handout was titled, “It’s January 15, 2020: What did we do to move through the great recession of 2009.” Inside, I presented a number of scenarios that challenged the participants to think about innovation strategies that could be pursued right now, in order to provide that growth.
The concept resonated extremely strongly. All around me, I see opportunities for growth in a wide variety of industries. And what is becoming obvious is that some organizations are aggressively adopting strategies that involve “aggressive innovation” to change their direction now, rather than later.
Since last year, when the recession began, I’ve seen some of the best and worst approaches to how organizations are dealing with the challenges in the economy. And I go back to a previous blog post, in which I identified a list of 10 more things that smart, innovative companies do to create an overall sense of innovation-purpose. It’s still a great list, and is worth repeating.
- Heighten the importance of innovation. One major client with several billons in revenue has 8 senior VP’s who are responsible for innovation. And the fact is, they don’t just walk the talk — they do it. The message to the rest of the company? Innovation is critical — get involved.
- Create a compelling sense of urgency. With product lifecycles compressing and markets witnessing fierce competition, now is not the time for studies, committee meetings and reports. It’s time for action. Simply do things. Now. Get it done. Analyze it later to figure out how to do it better next time.
- Ignite each spark. Innovative leaders know that everyone in the organization has some type of unique creativity and talent. They know how to find it, harness it, and use it to advantage.
- Re-evaluate the mission. You might have been selling widgets five years ago, but the market doesn’t want widgets anymore. If the world has moved on, and you haven’t, it is time to re-evaluate your purpose, goals and strategies. Rethink the fundamentals in light of changing circumstances.
- Build up experiential capital. Innovation comes from risk, and risk comes from experience. The most important asset today isn’t found on your balance sheet — it is found in the accumulated wisdom from the many risks that you’ve taken. The more experiential capital you have, the more you’ll succeed.
- Shift from threat to opportunity. Innovative organizations don’t have management and staff who quiver from the fear at what might be coming next. Instead, they’re alive from breathing the oxygen of opportunity.
- Banish complacency and skepticism. It’s all too easy for an organization, bound by a history of inaction, to develop a defeatist culture. Innovative leaders turn this around by motivating everyone to realize that in an era of rapid change, anything is possible..
- Innovation osmosis. If you don’t have it, get it — that’s a good rule of thumb for innovation culture. One client lit a fuse in their innovation culture by buying up small, aggressive, young innovative companies in their industry. They then spent the time to carefully nurture their ideas and harness their creativity.
- Stop selling product, and sell results. The word solution is overused and overdone, but let’s face it — in a world in which everything is becoming a commodity and everyone is focused on price, change the rules of the game. Refuse to play — by thinking about how to play in a completely new game.
- Create excitement. I don’t know how many surveys I saw this year which indicated that the majority of most people in most jobs are bored, unhappy, and ready to bolt. Not at innovative companies! The opportunity for creativity, initiative and purpose results in a different attitude. Where might your organization be on a “corporate happiness index?” If it’s low, then you don’t have the right environment. Fix that problem — and fix it quick.
What are you doing right now to make sure that when you look back from January 15, 2020, you’re happy with the fact that you developed the right sense of purpose?