For a marketer, there’s nothing worse than seeing a beloved product or brand bite the dust. The recent bankruptcy and closure of the Hostess brand serves as a bittersweet reminder to business owners great and small of the need to constantly innovate in order to survive. To compete in our dynamic, global, tech-based economy, companies must embrace change, not shun it. Whether you’re running a mom and pop or a multi-national, here are five ways you can get into an innovation mindset just in time for the New Year.
- Learn to Question Your Own Conventional Wisdom: I once had a history professor who said, “If it happened after 1,000 AD, it’s not relevant.” Don’t be like him. Past performance is not a predictor of future success. Technology and global interconnectivity are fostering exponential, not linear, change. To keep your head above the roiling seas, you must embrace a mindset of innovation; these times bring unprecedented challenges and opportunities. Focus on the latter. Use your past knowledge for perspective and guidance, but apply new innovations.
- Use Technology to Work Smarter, Not Harder: Remember the legend of John Henry the “steel driving man?” Steel drivers were tasked with chiseling railroad tunnels out of solid rock. In the story, John Henry went head to head against a new steam-powered hammer; he won the race, but then died “with the hammer in his hand.” Many of us have been raised to value hard work over all else. Unfortunately, hard work does not always equate with optimal efficiency. To compete in the 21st century techonomy, you need to work smarter, not harder. From the wheel and plowshare to the smartphone and computer, technology has been used to add efficiency to human work. For businesses, there have never been so many time and work-saving technologies available; figure out how you can integrate them into your daily operations.
- Read the Tea Leaves: In today’s techonomy, change is happening at breakneck speed. Once you take off the blinders of “how things are done,” you can begin to open your eyes to the future. Take some time to study the habits of serial innovators like Richard Branson. People like Sir Richard understand that long-lasting success is a mindset more than anything else.
- Take Time to Wonder: For many, curiosity as it relates to business is a dirty word, implying recklessness or immaturity. I say bollocks to that. Curiosity is a catalyst for change. Spend more time focusing on possibilities rather than problems. Try and see things through the perspective of the end user: always ask yourself how things could be better, different, or more interesting. Think big, but pay attention to small details. Be curious.
- Become a Life-Long Learner: As someone who likes to learn new things, I can’t think of a better time to be alive. Beyond just “Googling it,” the last decade has brought more free educational resources to our fingertips than ever in history. Thanks in part to online facilitators like Udacity, Khan Academy, edX, and Coursera, people can educate themselves on any number of topics to a high degree of depth whenever or wherever they choose. Given these resources, there is no reason not to continually evolve your business skill set and knowledge base.
More than ever before, today’s emerging techonomy favors innovation over stagnation. For those who embrace change, the possibilities are limitless; for those who fear it, the challenges are daunting. As you ponder on which side of this great divide you sit, recall the fate of Ding Dongs the world over…
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