Change to succeed
BY STERLING HAWKINS
BY CONSIDERING what
to innovate, when to innovate and how to successfully implement innovation, you can achieve
the big wins of change.
However, the complexities
and questions of everyday
business can make leaders averse to change,
stuck in a balancing act of maintaining
older systems and processes while super;-cially experimenting with new things. You
might tell yourself it’s an attempt to manage
risk, but a lack of decisiveness can paralyze
your business, leaving you with slow, incremental improvements that hardly seem
worth the e;ort.
More and more business owners are
struggling with the question of innovation
as the pace of change increases. Virtual
reality, the internet, ;D printing, robotics,
drones and more—these technologies have
the potential to completely upend the game
for many businesses.
How do you take advantage of the upside
of innovation without getting lost?
What to innovate
Most business owners think about how
to make their current existence incrementally better. Methodically understanding,
altering and testing potential innovation
around certain business functions is certainly bene;cial. But asking questions like
“What if my business looked drastically
di;erent?” and “How else could I better
serve my customers?” can lead to answers
that take you outside the box with much
Innovation can and should be purpose-
ful, although sometimes it is the result of
happy accidents. Team-building exercises,
company events and simply getting outside
your own comfort zone can trigger ideas and
conversations that lead to breakthroughs.
It’s important not to get caught up in the
excitement of new ideas or lost in the potential of what could be. Innovation for the sake
of innovation may have a short-term cool
factor that quickly fades. Assessing a true
cost-for-bene;t model will yield answers in
a sustainable way and improve your business for the long haul.
When to innovate
Nearly as important as what to innovate
is when. Change usually comes with a cost,
but so does not changing. Sometimes business processes become so much better and
faster that doing nothing costs more than
making the change—think credit cards,
accounting software or even mobile phones.
Innovations that others are successful with
can work for your business as well.
Not embracing certain innovations
can leave much on the table. Ask yourself
if the cost of the change—including time,
expense, overhead, etc.—outweighs the
benefit. If it does, it’s probably not the
time for change. If you can see a ;nancial
return, appreciable time savings or other
benefit, the time is ripe to implement.
The return-on-investment (ROI) period
varies by business and business size—and
ROI isn’t necessarily directly correlated
How to innovate
It’s no secret that diet and exercise will
help you lose weight, but actually accom-
plishing that goal is hard. Innovation and
change operate in much the same way:
Knowing what needs to be done and actually
doing it are two separate functions.
The key is to get started. It’s all too easy
to sit back and fall into paralysis by analysis,
overanalyzing each and every component
until not much advances at all. Analysis
must be conducted, but it should be com-
mensurate with the business risk.
Deadlines are an important part of
moving forward. Setting a reasonable go/
no-go time frame helps to move along analysis and decision-making. Sticking to goals
and actions empowers business leaders to
be more decisive and avoid the quagmire of
second-guessing past decisions.
Above all, a culture that fosters change,
supports failure and accepts mistakes is a
foundational key to innovation. The CEO
and the executive team of any-size company set the tone for what is expected and
often provide the support for innovation
or the lack thereof. Creating an environment where challenging the status quo is
accepted and encouraged lets innovation
Innovation isn’t a silver bullet for business issues. The day-to-day blocking and
tackling needs to be grounded in solid fundamentals. Moving forward with an eye
toward driving innovation when, where
and how you choose will ultimately lead
you to con;dently create the future of your
Sterling Hawkins is in charge of operations
and venture relationships for the Center for
Advancing Retail & Technology (advancing