A research project was done some years ago seeking to determine which was the more intelligent – flies or bees. A very large transparent glass jar full of bees and a similar jar full of flies were put up against a window pane on a bright sunny day and the lids removed. As the researchers watched they observed every one of the flies eventually escaped their jar, but every one of the bees died in their jar. From this they concluded that bees are more intelligent than flies! They deduced that the flies just flew around and eventually bounced their way out the opening, but the bees with higher intelligence were so focused on the direction of the light being the way out that they only went in that direction. Hence the open glass jar became a death trap.
The most successful companies in the world at the beginning of the 20th Century were the giant railway corporations in the USA that helped open up the prosperity of the wealthiest nation on earth. Yet these giant companies were largely gone by 1950’s because they thought they were in the railway business and did not realise they were actually in the transportation business. They, like the bees, focused on what they knew, and meanwhile other companies and the public embraced air travel.
I was at a presentation recently by Yellow Pages which for the past 10 years has been quietly innovating because long ago they realised that the days of a large telephone-type-book approach to their business was drawing to an end. Today through constant innovation they have a very diverse online network with a combined total of 30 million searches per week because they have realised they are not in the telephone book business but in the people connection business.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” may have once been a good mantra, but in this day and age, with things changing all around us all the time, it is usually those who resist innovation who will be struggling tomorrow.
5 Keys to Continual Innovation.
- Know your core business – Jim Collins, Good to Great, discovered in analysing businesses that had been successful for more than 50 years, that they knew their core business well and stuck at it, but were willing to keep changing everything else all the time.
- There is always a way! Keep telling yourself until you believe it. If what you are doing is not working, growth has slowed or results are starting to plateau, then try something else, and if that doesn’t work, try something else…
- Brainstorm possibilities regularly – Always be thinking ahead of the game. This involves making sure you make time and clear your headspace to be able to think ahead of the urgent day to day matters to engage in seeing where you are headed.
- Be eager to learn new things – the day you start to think you know it all, or that no-one can teach you anything is the day to sell your business.
- Don’t be afraid to fail – Build a culture within your business which gives everyone the clear message that it is ok to fail. There is no such thing as failure, only feedback! This will build an environment in which team members will be willing to have a go without fear of recrimination.
A great question to ask yourself is: “When was the last time you did something for the first time?”
So what are you working on right now that will make tomorrow different for you?