If your company is relying on "tried and true" solutions to deliver satisfaction to your customers, you may be stunting future growth. In fact, that's almost certainly likely, according to tech entrepreneur Josh Linkner.
Linkner delivered the opening keynote at the Midsize Enterprise Summit in Indianapolis featuring his take on the MES East theme of the "The Big Shift." Many midsize businesses are facing a turning point, in terms of how they will appropriate their IT budget dollars. IT leaders and tech suppliers assembled for Linkner’s keynote were asked: Will you continue doing business as usual, or is the time is now to break the mold and create a solution that will disrupt the industry?
As a venture capitalist, Linkner has seen companies grow, others stagnate and too many fail. What is critical to success is the ability to be introspective — to really look into the way a company is being run and focus on reinvention through disruption and transformation. Linkner offered five ways to drive that change in any organization:
1. Get Curious and Ask Why
Understanding the reason something has happened—whether good or bad—is the way toward continuous improvement. It is known as the "Five Whys" at Toyota: Asking "why" five times about every matter will allow a company to drill down to the root problem. Toyota understands the importance of finding the source of a problem in order to create a lasting solution, and to prevent recurrence.
2. Crave What's Next
Often, companies look to best practices to chart their courses. Ironically, that requires looking back to go forward. In today's fast-paced world, looking ahead and being aware of the trends that are pointing the way is vital. Best practices are good, but only if they can inform what "next practices" should be.
Linkner pointed to Duke University's Coach K, Mike Krzyzewski,— the winningest coach in college basketball. Fans at Duke games cheer "Next Play!" because they know players are always thinking about what moves they'll need to make to outwit the opponent. The same is true in business: Winners are always one step ahead of the competition.
3. Defy Tradition
Within a family, tradition is good, it provides stability and, often, events or actions that are anticipated. In business, however, traditions can anchor a company and cause stagnation. Doing things the way they've always been done can harm a company doing business in a dynamic environment. Industry evolves. The manner in which you do business should also.
Linkner advises IT leader to ask themselves: Can you defy tradition and get a better outcome. Look at the glazed doughnut, for example. Linkner described the sweet treat as a commodity: More or less the same at any bakery or diner, the glazed doughnut is a staple of the American breakfast scene and costs roughly 50 cents. The doughnut market has largely been the same for decades. But pastry chef Dominique Ansel, saw opportunity in the "stale" doughnut market and — voila! — developed the wildly successful cronut. Cronuts are in such demand that customers are willing to wait in line for one — and they'll also pay tenfold premium for the pleasure of doing so.
Are you providing cronut solutions — or glazed donut solutions?
4. Be Scrappy
Back in the 1980s, the television show MacGyver depicted a crime-fighting agent who, despite lack of time and materials, was able to put together solutions that would remarkably get him out of the stickiest of situations. That's the essence of being scrappy. Stop complaining about lack of money, time or resources and figure out what you can do. Define the problem, set the goal and determine the solution that fits the budget. Remember, necessity is the mother of invention.
5. Adapt Fast
Finally, Linkner underscored the importance of speed. Hurdles and challenges need to be addressed quickly. Lingering over decisions or being slow to deliver will doom a company. He offered Cleveland brand whiskey as an example. The founder, Tom Lix, was in dire financial straits when he came upon the idea of opening a whisky distillery. Lix was a whisky connoisseur, but unfortunately his financial needs were more dire than his newfound business would support. A quality whiskey ferments for a minimum of six months and Lix' creditors were knocking at the door. So he adapted: Lix created a method of pressurizing the aging process, thereby shortening the time needed to one week. Today, his Cleveland whiskey is a local hit — and it sells at a 30 percent premium to the market average.
Here’s a summary of Linkner’s message. Any company can become disruptive and innovative. Even one small change can affect a much larger dynamic. Start making positive change today by being curious, asking questions not to place blame, but rather, to understand the root problems of your business. Only then can you create innovative solutions to get your business not simply on track, but to the head of the pack.