When I wrote my predictions for this year, I should have listened to Mr. Bartender when he suggested innovation as the word of the year. Absolutely everyone is talking about it. Specifically, companies are talking about innovation as a means to boost sales.
Innovation, as defined by Merriam-Webster is simply the introduction of something new. I think the innovation companies are discussing is about doing something different with the goal of getting a better result. Important distinction. Successful and profitable companies want to use innovation as a way to improve their positioning in the marketplace. But we have to realize that innovation doesn’t occur without competent leadership. I’ve recently run across a few examples that I wanted to share of companies and their attempts at innovation.
Innovation isn’t easy and takes time. We all get spam unsolicited e-newsletters. Some we read and most we probably hit the delete button. I recently received one of those spam e-newsletters and yep, hit the delete button. But then the company called me on the phone to confirm that I had received their spam e-newsletter. What?? This is an example of a company who thought they would “do something different” and conduct follow-up calls after sending out their spam e-newsletter. Without taking the time to build a customer relationship, the end result is the perception that they’re just piling on a bad cold call to their…well, you know.
Leaders know new ideas and processes take courage to implement. They are realistic in their approach.
Innovation needs resources. I recently attended a conference where one of the exhibitors was giving away an iPad every hour. Clever idea, you might say, it takes a lot of resources to offer that kind of giveaway. And you would be correct. I went by their booth to get information – not to enter the iPad contest. And no one could help me. That’s right – everyone was so busy running the iPad contest, they couldn’t talk about their product. I’m sure this company thought let’s “do something different”, create a huge giveaway and people will stampede our booth. They definitely accomplished that. The question is did they accomplish getting product information to people who were interested in buying?
Leaders ensure that work activities have substance, not just flash.
Innovation occurs when credibility exists. Just because you’re “doing something different” doesn’t mean you can forego credibility. I attended an event that promoted their sponsor who was raffling off an iPad – clearly the hot prize of the season. It was obvious this company was “doing something different” and sponsoring a small intimate gathering versus getting lost in a bigger event. That whole quality versus quantity argument. But at the end of the evening, they didn’t raffle off the iPad…I was told there weren’t enough people there to justify it. Folks, if you say you’re going to do something…you gotta do it. Otherwise, you lose all credibility with the audience.
Leaders are true to their word. They do what they say they’re going to do. Or they renegotiate the commitment.
In each one of these examples, I can totally see the conversation in some conference room. A member of the senior leadership team says, “What we’ve been doing isn’t working, so we need to do something different. We need to get creative and develop an innovative approach. This will get us more sales.” And they are absolutely right.
But when it comes time to “do something different” the only way you will get a better result is by using smart leadership skills. We all know leadership isn’t easy. Leaders must be credible. And the company has to devote resources toward leaders being successful.
Want to ensure your innovation efforts don’t fall short? Start making investments in your leadership team.2