You only have two competitive advantages: Your people and innovation. And your people are the ones who will be coming up with innovative ways to do things. Companies must innovate or they may not be around in the near future. Companies like Google, Apple, Zappos, and Cisco all invest a lot of time and energy on two things: 1. Making sure that their people are engaged and excited about what they are doing. and 2. Creating an atmosphere of innovation.
How do they do this? The first thing is to pay attention to the needs of the employees. They continuously talk to employees about how they appreciate what they do. Managers walk around and interact and get to know the employees and their passions, likes, dislikes, and motivations. Secondly, they create a climate where innovation is rewarded. There are no bad ideas. Everything is considered. They don’t negate new ideas. They embrace everything as a possibility and discuss the options. They create an environment where people can come together formally and informally to share ideas and thoughts on how business is done and how to make it better. Employees are taught to silence that inner critic and mangers are taught to say “yes” and “thank you” instead of “no, but” and “we tried that before and it didn’t work.” Let me be clear. “Yes, and . . . ” doesn’t mean that you agree with everything. “Yes, and . . . ” creates a healthy dialogue of meaningful discussion.
What is the atmosphere at your company? Is it open to new ideas and innovation? We all must think very differently to survive in this economy. Early designers of flying machines used movable wings because it emulated a bird in flight. But it wasn’t until the paradigm was shifted with fixed wing aircraft that manned flight became possible. There are artificial hearts that emulate a real heart with chambers and a flow of blood that causes a heartbeat. But the latest innovation in that arena is an artificial heart with continuous flow. There is no beat. It is a simple pump that continuously flows the blood through your body. This paradigm shift is leading to very efficient and simple artificial hearts. But it took someone to look at the way things were being done and say, “What if?”
What is your expertise? What are your people’s talents? How can you leverage that in a business setting to create new revenue streams? Don’t think about how you’ve always done business. Think about what value you and your people bring and see if that is applicable in other areas. Get a group discussion going and brainstorm this concept. You never know where it will lead.