Friday, June 3, 2011

Innovation, Change, And Disruptive Hypotheses

I have always been fascinated with what makes some companies and or organizations so successful and why other companies struggle and then never quite achieve their potential, then you have those companies that, for a period of time, are doing everything right and growing by leaps and bounds, only to end up being an eventual cultural relic.

Innovation and change are disruptive; they involve someone somewhere asking the question, “what if….”  That then becomes the basis for a disruptive hypothesis; a disruptive hypothesis being an intentionally unreasonable statement that is designed to upset your comfortable business equilibrium which in turn leads to a change in direction of your thought process.

Innovation starts with a disruptive hypotheses and the process of creating one involves:

1.      Defining the situation;
2.      Searching for clichés;
3.      Then twisting those clichés around.

Every industry has its "best practices" and every industry has its stereotypical way of doing business; we seek out consultants, we seek out employees, and we seek out solutions to problems by believing that success derives from being better, more experienced, or more like everyone else in our industry.

Exactly then how do you question clichés if you reinforce "...that's the way we have always done it..." through your hiring practices?  Stealing the expertise of a competitor is not innovation.

I remember when I first was introduced to the concept of self funding employee health insurance, I was informed that we were not "big" enough.  But, when I asked why and what does the number of lives covered have to do with it I never could get an answer other than, "...because that is the way it is...."

Eventually, we sat down and worked up the numbers and came to understand why the number of lives covered is important but we also found that we could benefit from shifting to a self funded plan.  Then we went on and found that by working with a local hospital we could create a "gatekeeper" network that involved our employees naming a primary care physician who managed their health care and who was paid a higher fee to do so; this in turn lowered our health care costs!

If you find yourself struggling with a growing company, where it seems that the different departments are not coming together then why not institute a 'job swap' program; a program where, on a regular basis employees work with their counterparts in other departments?  If shipping and customer service are always at loggerheads, then let them spend a day, on a regular basis, in the shoes of the other.

In the apparel industry sales will always demand new products; new colors and or something new every few months.  Then when you analyze sales you realize that 75% of your sales come from the same 10 products; obviously the desire for newness is only a motivation to get your sales people out selling the same products they have always sold.  But, so many apparel companies end up growing to the point that their inventory and product line ends up being their downfall.

What if, rather than sending professional sales people to a trade show, you sent company employees?  Who better to sell your product but the people who make the product?

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