How Small Wins in Business Can Mean Big Returns

Building a Culture of Continuous Innovation

In most organisations that we visit, we find that actually there are a lot of great ideas in the organisation but the organisation is not acting on them. Part of it is the culture, part of it is fear.

But it’s really important to actually start acting on those ideas and start trying to implement them. Sure, don’t take the big ideas and the big risks first up. But start looking at how you can implement something small with a quick win and build confidence, build the culture of the business so that you can actually create an environment of continuous innovation.

As we tell clients, it’s not about coming up with one great innovation. Because within three years, somebody else is going to have an innovation that supersedes it.

It’s about creating a culture and an environment. We create continuous innovation so you constantly can keep ahead of the competitors and keep finding new ways to build growth and to build profit in your organisation.

Keeping Your People Engaged

As a CEO, you’ve put a lot of time and effort into trying to find the right people in your organisation and build the right skills. You’ve got the board on-board with you, you’ve driven ideas in your organisation, but if you don’t start implementing those innovations, you’re going to lose those people. It’s very important sometimes to go for a quick win to keep people engaged than to have three-year or five-year projects for some innovation that’s down the road.

It’s also important to try and focus not always on big change but lots of small changes because it helps to keep people engaged. This also allows you to test the environment – what works, what doesn’t work, where the successes come from, where the failures are and also to test your market.

Because at the end of the day, if your customers aren’t buying your innovations, then you’d created the wrong innovations. You really look at making sure that you start early with your innovations and start implementing early so that you can test the culture, the processes and make sure that they’re working okay.

The Human Factor

What’s important about the “CEO Innovation Blueprint” is it’s not about theory; it’s about practical ideas and concepts to actually make innovation happen.

So often, organisations are spending considerable time and money in innovation but don’t actually make innovation happen. If they are making innovation happen, they’re not getting results. A lot of it is because they’re focused on the size, they’re focused on the technology. They haven’t focused on the people issues – the human factor around innovation.

This whole idea behind the “CEO Innovation Blueprint” is to help the CEOs identify the human factors that are stopping innovation from being successful. It’s looking at your customer issues. It’s looking at why creativities bog down in your organisation. It’s looking at why people are reluctant or fear change. It’s looking at why we’re not challenging the status quos well as we could be.

When you start tackling a number of these issues, the way that we are suggesting in the “CEO Innovation Blueprint”, you’ll start removing a number of roadblocks from innovation and you’ll start seeing greater success in profit and growth.

When Organisations Look at Problems the Wrong Way

We worked with clients around the world solving a variety of problems in different organisations. Some interesting challenges that we found were people looking at the problem the wrong way, just by simply changing the way they thought about the business problem and coming up with great innovations and new solutions.

One company that we were asked to come into help with was a direct marketing book retailer. They had a problem of trying to rebuild growth. It was an interesting environment because a lot of how the business was driven was by editorial staff. And they were looking at the product by how it looked, not what its value was to the customer.

When you’re thinking about a web page, the real estate of a web page, and then you want to try and get your high-revenue items high up on that web page, the editors are actually looking at what looked the prettiest or what was the best-looking cover.

Often that would be giving what was looking good preference over something that actually provided better return to the organisation. It’s just simple things like that, that can have an innovative impact on profit.

Another organisation that we were involved in was in the shipping industry. The shipping industry is a very good example of how cost-cutting virtually will bring it to its knees.

We came to this organisation where staff actually couldn’t go on leave because they were doing three peoples’ jobs and there was nobody to replace them.

We sat down and looked at the problems of the business. It wasn’t that the business wasn’t profitable, it was that the business was not looking at how to maximise the return.

In the shipping industry, people thought that the biggest assets were the ships. We actually identified that the biggest assets were the containers. There was more capital tied up in containers than there were in the ships.

Then we looked at it and what happened was that some goods were brought over from another country on a container that were taken out to the distributor. The distributor was using the containers as free storage and it could be sitting out at somebody’s site for two years, and that was capital of the shipping company.

When we changed around the focus, not on managing ships but managing the container and introduced container systems, we started driving growth around it.

We found scenarios where they were sending 2,000 empty refrigerator containers overseas, and at the same time they’re asking them to bring 2,000 refrigerator containers back to another local port. Simple mistakes like that were costing them big business.

Changing the focus from ships to managing containers started driving profit. But again this is the important part of remembering how we are solving the customers’ problems?

The customers were keeping containers on site as free storage so we were able to create a new business of hiring containers as temporary storage. We move something from something that was free storage to actually earning revenue from providing a service that the customer needed.

These are just sort of the types of examples of innovations in small ways that can have a big impact on business.

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DAVID JORDAN