Book Recommendations, Part Three: Innovation and Branding

 

These books focus on creating more appropriate value for your customers (innovation) and strengthening the customers’ perception of value that they receive from your organization (branding).

Innovation

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs by Carmine Gallo

The Art of Innovation by Tom Kelley

The Innovator’s Solution by Clayton Christensen

Branding

Winning the Story Wars by Jonah Sachs

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

Positioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout

It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For by Roy Spence with Haley Rushing

Immerse Yourself in Observing Other People

Today don’t jump into a hot debate at a meeting or take over an operations situation and tell other people what to do. Instead invest yourself in observing people. Observe how they interact and how they make decisions and how they communicate their messages. Observe your customers. Be part of the crowd, not the sentry guard standing in the observation tower.

Watch people today.

See what frustrates them and motivates them. While you observe them, ask yourself, “What could my organization create that would be of more appropriate value for this person? How can we make the solution for this person simpler, less expensive, more helpful, or more convenient?” You don’t have to be Mr./Ms. Fix-It. Just observe today and learn from others.

 

How to Gain Support for Innovations

While there are a lot of reasons why people inside a business won’t get serious about innovating, there is one reason they will take seriously. If the danger to the survival of the business is greater for not innovating than it is for innovating, then they will take innovating seriously. When a group of people understand that they might lose the company and their jobs, then they realize they have to innovate.

Other companies can attack yours in two ways:

Frist, they can create products and services that provide less value than you are offering at a lower price for customers who don’t need as much value as they get from you and would like to pay a lot less money. These competitors will also capture new customers that you could have had, but they are not willing to pay you what you want.

Another way that companies can take business away from you is to create a product or service that provides more value than you provide and that your customers or potential customers are willing to pay for.

If you don’t innovate, then your customer base will get smaller and smaller. Some people will stay out of loyalty and some will stay because they will never lift their head to look around at their options. But those groups of people are getting smaller and smaller, especially as the internet provides more and more instant information on every imaginable product and service.

Once you’ve gained the attention of the people who work in your business to the importance of innovating, convert their fear to enthusiasm by explaining the huge opportunity that a specific effective innovation can bring to the organization. This will attract your best folks to the project.

WARNING: Of course, you have to actually believe that the innovation will improve the future. If you are just selling the idea of innovating and not focusing on the reality of the hard work involved in innovating, then just doing new things for the sake of it will not help your company. It will actually hurt your company as you expend a lot of time, energy, and money on doing new things just for the sake of doing new things.

 

Why Good Ideas Never Gain Support in an Organization

A person presents a highly viable idea for generating profitable growth. It fits within the organization’s skills and passions. It connects well to the needs of the targeted customers.

So why doesn’t the idea get support from executives or mid-level managers?

1. It might not be successful, and therefore no one wants to take the risk of associating their name with a failure. The odds of any idea failing are far greater than the odds of the idea succeeding. The downside of being associated with a failure is greater than the upside of possibly getting credit for a success.

2. It might take time and energy away from current tasks, which might hurt a person’s performance, evaluation, and pay.

3. It is simply easier to continue to do what you know how to do than it is to learn how to do something new.

4. It is a more efficient use of a day to do a lot of what you are already skilled at than to struggle doing something you are not skilled at. You feel more productive doing a well-skilled activity, even though it may not be the best activity for producing results.

5. Egos represent a huge problem. For some people if they did not originate the idea, they will automatically resent it and resist it.

6. The payoff for the idea in the short term seems insignificant compared to where your business is making most of its money right now. Consequently, the idea is forgotten even though it leaves an opening for a competitor to come in and steal the low end of your business.

If you are going to successfully innovate in your company, then you have to know what you are up against. Make a list of all the reasons you can think of as to why people will fight an innovation no matter how good the idea might be.

When You Innovate Either Iterate or Eliminate

Innovation is back in vogue. Everyone is talking about it. That’s the good news. The bad news is it can be just as confusing as ever to know how to do it in a way that generates better sustainable, profitable growth and not in a way that wastes time.

Think of innovations in two buckets: iterations and eliminations. Iterations are when you improve an existing product or service so that it provides greater value for your customers and desired customers. Eliminations are when you create a new product or service that eliminates the need for an existing product or service. This could be your competitor’s existing product or service or your own.

In the end, it is critically important to continually create iterations and eliminations.

Be on the Alert to Learn Something New about your Customers

Innovation should never be an annual or quarterly goal. Make it part of your daily activities. The first step toward creating greater value for other people is to gain a better understanding of their needs. Don’t ask them what they need. Watch them in action and ask yourself what they need.

If you sell to consumers, then go watch them in action. See what their lives are like. If you sell to a business, then ask people at the business if you can spend time in their world to better understand what might be of greater value for them in the future. I’ve been welcomed into businesses in over thirty industries to better understand their world. How did I gain entry? I asked if I could come and spend a few hours in their world.

The act of watching your customers in action is vastly more important than sitting in a conference room brainstorming for ideas on what people might want. That step is important as well, but only after you’ve gone to watch your customers in action.