Note to Businesses: What's Your Mantra?
In order to survive and thrive in today's business technology world, your organization needs to be unique, valuable, and focused on innovation.
I recently returned from a tech conference on the West Coast and was amazed by the main speaker, technology evangelist Guy Kawasawki. His presentation really made me think about how to survive in the business world and exist in the wonderful tech industry in which we all live and breathe. We have all seen so much change over the years that it is important for us to know how some of the best innovative companies out there got to where they are today. The key is to be unique and valuable.
As Kawasaki said, great companies exist because they want to create meaning and possibly change the world -- if you create meaning and foster change, making a profit naturally follows. Apple created meaning with its computer business by enabling people to be more creative and productive with technology at their fingertips. Google created meaning through providing equal access to information to everyone.What's Your Mantra?
Great success and great innovation occurs because companies and people want to make meaning; they want to make the world be a better place. For businesses wanting to get on board with creating more meaning, Kawasaki advises a good first step is to develop a mantra, which is a two or three word explanation of why your company exists. He shared a few examples. Wendy's mantra could be "Healthy Fast Food;" Nike, with its slogan of "Just Do It," could have a mantra of "Authentic Athletic Performance." As another example, FedEx could have a mantra of "Peace of Mind" to convey that when a person needs something quickly at a certain location, they can relax and be assured it will be there on time.
Come up with a mantra for your company so your employees know it and use it in their daily work. While few employees will be able to remember and recite a company's lengthy mission statement, everyone can remember three words. Evangelizing your company's mantra to your employees and encouraging them to adopt it will help keep everyone engaged and focused on the meaning behind the work that they do. This will also engage your customers to be on the same page, to keep the industry on the same page. What is your mantra? What three words do you stand for?Putting Innovation at the Forefront
Next up, you should set the parameters for how your business innovates. Innovation is not about doing things 10% better or 15% better ... it's about being 10 times better! An example of a company that resisted change and suffered as a result could be Kodak. How many of us use a Kodak camera today? For that matter, how many of us use a Smith Corona typewriter, or a Polaroid camera, or a telegraph? These companies did not jump to the next curve because they defined themselves in terms of what they already do or make. We need to think about defining our business in terms of the benefits provided to our customers. Are you simply providing a phone system, or are you providing a way to boost customer relations? Don't think in terms of what you currently do, get to the next curve.
Intelligence -- Depth of services and power is a great quality, especially when you are able to anticipate what your customers need before they ask for it. Great products are also intelligent. Mercedes has something called Pre-safe, which detects that the car is about to collide into the object in front of it and puts out a very loud noise to alert the driver. The competition has followed, now making cars that actually brake to avoid collision. As another example of innovative companies injecting intelligence into their products, take a look at Ford, which sells Mustang GT500 cars that have 650 horsepower. Parents out there will agree with me that teenagers should not be allowed to drive a car with this much horsepower. Perhaps Ford even agrees, because it came up with MyKey, which lets the user (or father of the two teenage boys, perhaps) program a max speed into the key. Now the fastest these crazy teens can travel is 55 MPH -- bummer for them, but great for Dad, and intuitive thinking by Ford.
Completeness -- The next great quality of an innovative company is completeness. Think of the broadest of meaning. Take the completeness of Google, for example -- i.e. search, analytics, social media, google photos, google car ... google everything. The breadth and completeness of their portfolio of products and services is empowering people to be better. Somebody cared about the user in the design of the products.
Even if you don't feel like your product is 100%, get it out the door. It may not be perfect, but the next version will be better, and entering the market will put you ahead of the curve. Throw stuff up on the wall and maybe 1% will stick. As an example, consider Uber. Uber has polarized the cab business. The cab companies do not like Uber, but the consumer loves them because they have filled a need and did it better, and more efficiently. Ignore the naysayers.
Uniqueness and Value -- There are four corners of business. In one corner, your business has something that is useful and valuable, but maybe it is not unique. Businesses operating in that corner always have to fight for rights and compete on price. In the next corner, a business has something that only it does; the company essentially owns that market, but the product or service is not particularly valuable. The bottom corner is the .com corner -- this is the worst place to be as a business because there are too many companies out there doing the same thing as you; you are not unique, and you are not valuable. The best corner to be in is the innovator corner, these businesses are the thinkers and the ones that aren't fearful of introducing the next best idea.The bottom line of all this is to get you to ask yourself, "How is your business unique and valuable?" Review what you are offering the world to make it a better place, create your mantra, put your innovation parameters in place, and make 2017 your best year yet!
"SCTC Perspectives" is written by members of the Society of Communications Technology Consultants, an international organization of independent information and communications technology professionals serving clients in all business sectors and government worldwide.