Some firms exhibit “Brownian motion,” with initiatives flying in all directions. In others, ideas are vigorously debated… in action-free zones. In other cases, action begins but quickly fades, leaving employees wondering what next year’s program will be. In the saddest situations, long-term initiatives live only in the investor relations department’s PowerPoint® slides.
In Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, Alice was dismayed after much running to find she and the queen were still in the same spot. The Red Queen explained, “My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere, you must run twice as fast as that.” What are you doing that truly lets you “run faster” than competitors? Here’s one that works: Understand customer needs better than them.
More in white paper, Guessing at Customer Needs (page 7).
Strong intermediate (vs. ultimate) innovation metrics share these qualities: 1. Insightful: They help firms understand relationships between cause and effect. 2. Predictive: They measure behavior that will foretell ultimate success. 3. Actionable: Their short “feedback loop” allows rapid adjustments to be made. Are you using such metrics?
Business leaders focused on the short term are just showing up. They compete for market share this year, hit the reset button, and repeat the process next year. No serious, long-term capability-building. Count yourself fortunate if you compete against such companies. They’re easy to beat with the right time horizon.
One difference between business leaders and rock climbers is that many of the former think they can reach the top without training muscles. Imagine showing up at the base of El Capitan with recliner-chair abs and no climbing skills. Crazy? How about proclaiming double-digit growth plans every year… without developing the needed business-wide skills?
Let’s substitute market research for reconnaissance… business strategy for battle plan… resource allocation for troop deployment. Many business leaders fail to 1) thoroughly understand their battle fronts, 2) determine the decisive points (markets) to attack, and 3) follow with an overwhelming assault here. These generals lose battles.
More in article, How’s Your Market Segmentation?
Do you know if your company is improving key capabilities? Understanding customers’ needs, assessing competitive alternatives, creating data-driven value propositions, etc.? A race team that just counts wins—instead of pit crew times and engine torque—stops winning. Understand the capabilities that drive innovation and start measuring them.
If you manage one new-product project, it seems less risky to develop a “me-too.” But if you manage a business brimming with “me-too” and incremental new products, you’ll slide into commoditization with its death spiral. Very risky. So make sure your portfolio has enough products that will deliver significant value to your customers.
Read more in this free white paper, Innovating in Unfamiliar Markets (page 3).
Here’s the logic: You want profitable, sustainable growth. The only way to achieve this growth is through customer value creation. And all value creation comes from improving important, unmet customer outcomes. So, the better you understand customer outcomes, the better your growth can be. Are you doing this better than competitors?
More in white paper, Catch the Innovation Wave (page 9).
When recruiting John Sculley from Pepsi, Steve Jobs asked, “Do you want to sell sugar water the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?” Most employees paid no attention to your last quarter’s earnings-per-share. But they’ll tell their grandkids how their new product turned an industry upside-down.