I like Chinese food. My favorite: Beef and snow peas. My second favorite: the fortune cookie. Some think the fortune cookie to be plain and bland. That’s perfect for my palate because hidden in that cookie is usually a gem – and no, I don’t mean the lottery numbers.
My last Chinese takeout produced one of those rare gems that come along only so often. Sure, there were the usual fortunes about meeting someone, falling in love, living well; all the mundane slogans that we typically read and then deposit in the garbage can with what didn’t qualify as leftovers. But this fortune was one for the ages. It was one of those fortunes that earned a reserved place of honor, immediately taped to my monitor. A fortune that must have come from Confucius himself. Curious?
My fortune read, “If you want to succeed in business, avoid ‘business as usual.’”
As I have pondered today’s business climate and the challenges being faced by businesses of every size and in every industry, I thought this little piece of advice was prescient. Much like Albert Einstien’s definition of insanity, it’s so simple, yet so true.
So why then do so many businesses continue to do things the way they always have? Why is there such resistance to change? Why, in spite of business disruption seemingly around every corner are businesses content to maintain the status quo? There’s certainly not a simple answer to any of these questions; however, in most cases there are two culprits:
- Lack of new business development discipline and culture
It’s quite a simple thing to say that organizations that are content to conduct business as usual suffer from poor leadership, especially in the face of dynamic changes in their respective industries and emerging competitors. Frankly, there is little to say on this subject as history is replete with once successful businesses that have disappeared as a result of their leadership failing to change the trajectory of their business activities.
I would prefer to focus more on the second culprit, as this problem is pervasive in so many businesses but in many ways is not even viewed as a problem. New business development is under assault given the demands of running today’s business. The 24×7 business culture leaves little time for line of business leaders (often chartered with new business development) to focus their energies in this area. Worse yet, many companies have no idea how to even go about the process of developing new business initiatives.
Don’t get me wrong — there are clearly some standouts in the crowd. Frankly, they’re easy to identify since they have captured significant success, usually by expanding into unexpected areas outside of or adjacent to their traditional businesses or by having developed a unique business model totally disrupting an industry. But for every one of these superstars of business innovation there are hundreds if not thousands of businesses who are lost in the wilderness. These are the businesses (and there are a lot of them) that are highly vulnerable to disruption.
Where does your company stand? Do you have a dedicated organization specifically focused on innovation? Do you have a formal ideation process that captures input from employees, prospects and existing customers? Do you have a mechanism to validate ideas and a pool of resources including both money and personnel to shepard such ideas through a process toward commercialization? Do you have a company culture that promotes and encourages risk taking? Is your organization consistently looking for ways to change its approach, both internally and externally?
In order to rank high on the innovation scale you don’t necessarily need to answer “yes” to all the questions above, yet so many organizations can’t answer “yes” to even a few of these questions. Whether a publicly traded company or private, too often senior management and key line of business leaders are focused and driven toward the achievement of short-term financial performance, begging the question: who is planning for the future?
In a world of constant innovation, new business models, and more educated and demanding customers, new business development is not a nice to have, it’s a necessity.
So, where does your company rank on the innovation scale? If your ranking is poor, finding the inspiration to take new action and build a culture of business innovation might not be as challenging as you think.
Your inspiration may be as simple as looking in your lunch.
Dennis Amorosano is the president and founder of Dendog Strategy Insights LLC, a management consulting firm focused on strategic planning, new business development and go to market execution. Providing services in the areas of strategic business planning/execution, new business development, content creation/marketing automation and technology sourcing support, Dendog Strategy Insights brings 30 years of technology marketing, sales, product planning, software engineering, and professional service experience to help clients implement strategies that yield success.
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