In my journey of entrepreneurship, I have come to see the vital nature of innovation.
One of my networks is Bruce Wade, a strategic innovation coach.
Bruce, likened to his favourite superhero, is well known as the Batman for Business.
Bruce is a professional speaker, coach and author of over 20 books on various topics addressing the development of people across Africa.
Here is his take on innovation for entrepreneurs:
“I have seen a lot of the entrepreneurs and business owners I have worked with over the years do the same thing over and over, hoping to get a different result, such as an increase in customers or income streams.
“Innovation is just the opposite. Learn to work smart and less hard; this will give you a different result.
“Many businesses come to me asking for a better strategy to cope with the ever-changing environment.
“They struggle to compete in today’s post-Covid economy while doing the same stuff they have done for years.
“We unpack what they are doing and then rebuild their entire business model to be innovative and strategically geared to the new world. In just a few months they begin to see new results and an increase in turnover and profits.
“All that we do is based on the seven principles of sustainable innovation.
“These are a set of principles that have been developed over the past 25 years of consulting and coaching businesses around the world. They remain true and when implemented and followed by a business, innovation follows with positive results through strategic action.
“From the seven principles of sustainable innovation, we take Principle 6, which states ‘Learn to adapt and adjust fast to the changing world around you and act with innovational intent’.
“From this, we can distil several key questions and actions for an innovative business.
“Let me share some of the simple, yet profound strategic questions that I use when consulting with these businesses.”
● What is your current situation?
Understanding your current situation is key. This gives you a place to start and launch from. Simple tools such as the PESTELC Analysis and Porter’s 5 Forces will give you a full assessment of the external environment that you operate within.
Then a full internal assessment questionnaire will help unpack all the issues and opportunities that you currently own.
This should be an annual activity as part of the business’s strategic planning week done towards the end of the financial year.
But unfortunately, most businesses only do this when they hire a coach or consultant and that then requires a huge effort to unearth a lot of unknown issues and factors, that come with a big price tag.
The results of these are typically formatted into a typical SWOT assessment report detailing the internal and external factors of opportunities and threats to give a full report and answer to this question.
● What does the utopian horizon look like?
Once you know where you stand, it is time to use the words, “Imagine if…” to look far into the future and describe as best you can the best future for your business as possible.
What would it look like if everything went according to your best-laid plans? What would this future look like?
Map this out in a form of a dream board, essay, word map, or whatever form suits your style and brand. This is used to anchor your thoughts to the horizon.
● What is the most likely destination?
Now we all know that your answer to the last question is not always the best result considering the current situation. So, we tone it down to a more realistic future by asking the question, “What if…” This gives us a stretched horizon but with achievable outcomes and plans.
Typically, this could be anything from a three- to five-year plan sheet with actual realistic outcomes that cover issues of location, staff, product footprint, turnover, profit, and impact.
● How do we get there?
This is the key to the change that the business must make.
Traditionally people call this the gap-analysis and then they begin to map out a way from where they are to where they need to be.
This is an incorrect strategic move, as you can never move from where you are because you will always be bogged down by the current processes, mindsets, and traditions of your business.
The best way to get to a new destination is to reverse-engineer the future back towards the present. Then just play it forward.
Let me use a golf analogy here. Most golfers look at the ball on the grass, select the best club they know will work from experience and then hit the ball as best they can, hoping it will go somewhere towards the green.
A better way to do this, as followed by some professional golfers, is to select the spot where you want the ball to be. Then reverse engineer it back to where it is. Consider any wind, obstacles, and climate effects of the day.
Select the right club for that sort of shot, adjust your stance, swing, and hit with purpose and confidence. You will find that your ball with be a lot closer to the desired destination than the first technique.
The same applies to business. Be destination focused. Know where you want to be and keep your eyes on that horizon.
Take all the various factors into account that may help or hinder your efforts, select the right team and tool and techniques, and then just play it forward.
The chances of getting closer to your desired destination are far greater than just working harder and doing the same things repeatedly.
● Steve Reid runs his own business in support of entrepreneurs, leaders and incubators.
He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org