Everyone is looking for the next seminal idea or way of doing business that will lead to greatly increased productivity, profitability, and performance in the workplace. Where do these breakthroughs come from, and what can we do to ensure that we can promote, incubate, and identify them for our own line of work? As always, there is no one magical answer. No single way to get from point A to point Z. Here are ten effective ideas that I developed to help you:
1. If inevitable changes in your industry are coming, embrace them, don’t resist them. That is the only long-term choice that an organization can take. If there is a better way to do something, someone will bring it to market – why not you?
Look at all the missed opportunity: the railroad companies didn’t invent the automobile, filmmakers didn’t create videotapes or DVD’s, and telephone companies continue to underestimate the “creatively destructive” nature of the internet.
2. Subscribe to publications you wouldn’t normally read, that are outside of your direct social network or industry that might expose you to new ideas early in development or alternative ways to manage resources.
Identify what other industries might develop new ideas that could be valuable to you. (Have three people in your organization each pick a different industry and follow that industries’ developments and changes.) If you are a business owner or executive, you might want to learn more about investments and economics to be better equipped to profitably manage your own cash reserves or even how to manage long-term risks related to buying/holding the commodities that seriously impact your fixed costs through skilled option trading.
3. Subscribe to the publications your top customer groups read (their industry magazines and publications). How better to identify ways to help them as their business changes and grows while being knowledgeable of their critical industry developments?
4. Read publications discussing what top small businesses and emerging businesses are doing, why they are profitable, and why their customers are attracted to them. The services some of these emerging businesses are providing could even offer your organization a competitive advantage.
Did you know your local accountant might not be doing your taxes and your local radiologist might not be reading your x-rays? Thanks to fiber-optic technology, small businesses and other specializations are even able to outsource high-level functional tasks to the global low cost producers – all in real-time. How could emerging businesses give you a competitive advantage?
5. Insulate yourself from what other people are doing in your own industry and force yourself to imagine how you might accomplish an objective independently from what others in your industry are doing.
Three years ago I was talking with one of the top consultants in the country (I probably shouldn’t include his name). He told me to watch how, over the next couple of years, he would use his e-mail marketing list to grow his business and build name recognition. A couple of years later he used that email list to drive thousands of customers to Amazon.com, in one 24 hour period, to buy his book – making his book a number one best seller on Amazon overnight. The major publishers took notice, and now he has his books in every major bookstore nationally. Of course, now everyone with an e-list is trying to do the same.
6. Hire quality individuals with no experience in your particular industry that can bring a new perspective to your company that is not prevalent in your industry. If you can hire a professional early in their career trajectory, you can, usually, train them on the actual technicalities of your business industry relatively quickly without having to deal with a host of established work habits.
7. Go to industry conferences outside of your industry (perhaps the industry conferences likely attended by your top customers) to see how people are using new techniques and strategies to grow and operate their business. Identify best-practices in other industries, and integrate those ideas into your line of work. Select conferences or seminars that would likely provide information appropriate to accomplishing your work objectives. Here are two I like to recommend: the Learning Annex and the Money Show.
8. Consult with experts, consultants or specialized speakers in your line of work. Experts in a particular process or field can significantly shorten an individual’s or organization’s learning curve. You learn from the historical successes and failures of all the organizations that expert has worked with. Each qualified expert for your situation brings the education learned on the dime of dozens of other similar organizations. They can help you maximize potential opportunities and avoid catastrophic losses.
9. Consult with experts, consultants, or specialized speakers outside of your industry. A host of my customers are looking for experts that bring new ideas and business methodologies to their organizations. I hear from customers on a regular basis that they want experts and speakers from outside their industry. Just last week an organizational executive told me he didn’t want to hire a speaker from his line of work, housing; he wanted someone that could bring his organization new ideas, and relate that information to how it can help them with their objectives.
10. Consult with educated non-experts. You can learn something from anyone. I remember the story of an entrepreneur that had an idea for a service business. The entrepreneur went to an engineering company and asked for their best engineer. That engineer scoffed at his idea and told him it would never work. Needless to say, the entrepreneur asked the firm if he could talk with someone a little less “experty”. An engineering intern from the local college arrived on the scene, and said “I don’t know if that will work Mr., but I can help you find out.” Today, that entrepreneur has a multi-million dollar company, and a Hollywood movie deal that came out of the business he started. That’s also a good lesson in avoiding those that erect barriers to your success.
In looking for new ideas, the lesson becomes: Don’t balkanize ideas, techniques, information, or methodologies to a practical use in one particular area. Always try to apply new ideas and knowledge to situations where those ideas might also apply, but in areas where you wouldn’t have initially thought of using them.
Copyright 2005 Koby Fleck. All rights reserved.
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