When it comes to the concept of innovation, it’s not uncommon for many enterprises and individuals to struggle – big ideas seldom happen, or come to fruition, overnight. But to overcome these initial stumbling blocks, and be more successful in business, all it often takes is a slight shift in thinking… one which can quickly send your prospects soaring into overdrive. Case in point: What people don’t realize is that innovation is often about evolution, not revolution – little changes that make big impacts. Huge breakthroughs and game-changing discoveries are certainly helpful, but even a slight repositioning in strategy or approach can help you get unstuck, and provide significant windfalls. So if you or your organization aren’t ready to think big yet in terms of innovating, fine – often, you can still win by thinking small instead.
Consider the case of Target, among today’s most colossal retail chains. When the company wanted to increase revenues? It didn’t open more giant strip mall outlets. It launched pint-sized store prototypes in major cities nationwide. These locations don’t just feature products in smaller sizes (imagine a four-pack of toilet paper – who doesn’t love the fun size?), they also equip salespeople with mobile scanners so fast-moving urban shoppers can enjoy storewide checkouts and – like many bookstores – do a great deal of business selling locally-branded merchandise. This concept, designed to leverage the brand’s cachet in new and novel ways, hasn’t just provided significant gains. It’s been so successful that Target’s nearly doubled the number of these stores in just one year.
Again, innovation is easier than you think. And whether your organization is a small or grand-scale retail operation, you can absolutely, positively put the same strategic principles that today’s most successful change management practitioners leverage to work at every level. As part of our research for the new book “Make Change Work for You,” we recently had the pleasure to speak with dozens of leading experts in every field. What we discovered is that leading businesses and individuals use a simple, four-step recipe for staying ahead of the curve. These market leaders encourage you to:
1 Create a culture of empowerment and trust where everyone feels comfortable speaking up. Leading organizations empower their people, encourage them to speak up, and reward them for bringing potential opportunities and issues to light, or bringing new trends and tools to their attention.
2 Constantly rethink problems, perspectives, and the status quo. Leading organizations expect their people to constantly reconsider whether “the way it’s always been done” is still the best way to do it.
3 Embrace change. Leading organizations expect their employees to be creative, constantly seek better ways to do business, and be agile, flexible and dedicated about responding to changes in the business environment.
4 Make smart bets. Leading organizations try to be risk-averse, not risk-free. To find and seize on new opportunities, they know they have to constantly make measured gambles with new promotions, products and programs. So they do so strategically: By encouraging employees to constantly experiment and play lots of small, cost-affordable bets, iterating as they go until one or more pay off. For these enterprises, failure is simply a learning opportunity.
In short, leading organizations keep their eyes and ears peeled, remain open-minded, and boldly improvise as situations change. You can continue to go from strength to strength by doing the same in your own enterprise.
Scott Steinberg is a best-selling expert on leadership and innovation, and the author of “Make Change Work for You: 10 Ways to Future-Proof Yourself, Fearlessly Innovate, and Succeed Despite Uncertainty.” His website is AKeynoteSpeaker.com.