Hailed as the World’s Leading Business Strategist, award-winning professional speaker Scott Steinberg is among today’s best-known trends experts and futurists, and the bestselling author of “Lead with Your Heart;” “Make Change Work for You: 10 Ways to Future-Proof Yourself, Fearlessly Innovate, and Succeed Despite Uncertainty;” and “Millennial Marketing: Bridging the Generation Gap.” The president and CEO of BIZDEV: The International Association for Business Development and Strategic Partnerships, his website is AKeynoteSpeaker.com.
Recently, I was invited by one of America’s top military leaders to share my thoughts on how to make leadership a concept that scales across an organization, and make smarter decisions in an era of constant change. My answer was simple: Embolden and empower staffers to take action more frequently by giving them more opportunities to speak up and assume leadership roles — and put platforms in place that allow them to more rapidly ingest internal/external insights, deploy complementing ideas, and adapt these ideas to be more successful in turn based on feedback they gain from these efforts. That said, getting workers to embrace the idea of intrapreneurial thinking — i.e. taking more ownership of various programs, and operating like entrepreneurs, or internal change agents — isn’t a process that happens overnight. Which begs the question: How can you promote similar shifts in thinking among your organization, especially if the idea of change doesn’t come easily to it?
A few concepts that I’d argue are important to teach your people are as follows:
Innovation isn’t always about cutting-edge breakthroughs or game-changing technologies. Noting this, it pays to remind staff at every turn that simple shifts in business strategy or operating can be every bit as powerful at driving huge wins for your organization as new technology and groundbreaking scientific discoveries. In fact, as research shows, innovation can simply be a matter of perspective — and a process of constant reinvention. And enterprises of every size and background have the ability to leverage its core principles to succeed more frequently going forward. For example, one Fortune 500 company we work with has found ways to fast-track internal learning and growth by holding regular breakfast meetings and educational salons where senior leaders and junior hires are encouraged to sit down, share insights and collaborate in casual settings. Likewise, a government institution we’ve partnered with is using virtual reality and online gaming installations to better connect and resonate with younger, more tech-savvy recruits.
What’s more, surveys repeatedly tell us that end-users and key stakeholders for our services and solutions are the No. 1 best source where organizations get successful and innovative new ideas. Likewise, frontline workers — i.e. salespeople and customer reps, who are often closest to these information sources — are often the most informed audience inside any given institution. Taking this into account, it’s important to put platforms and programs in place at every turn that allow these individuals to surface, breaking insights and trends — and letting great ideas bubble up from the bottom, not just flow down from an executive team at the top. From consumer giants like Starbucks and Elmer’s Products to government organizations like the National Institutes of Health and U.S. Dept. of Defense, more and more firms are turning to the concept of open innovation — inviting feedback and contribution of ideas and input from outside sources, including private/public institutions and general citizens — as a means of scaling and accelerating innovation. In effect, they’re realizing that the more radically you can multiply the number of resources and insights available to you, the more radically you can multiply the speed at which you can solve any given challenge.
Likewise, in addition to providing staffers with more opportunities to try new things going forward, and promoting the idea of grand-scale thought leadership, I’d argue that it’s also important to champion concepts like fast deployment and learning amongst your workforce as well. After all, the more feedback from any given operating landscape that you can get, and the faster you can get it, the more rapidly you can use this information to improve your business programs and strategies, and the better off your organization will be. In essence, flexibility and agility are the essence of future-proofing, and the ability to quickly learn and translate knowledge into practice is the ultimate source of competitive advantage. Worth noting: Most organizations can go from idea to execution in less than 90 days, and many run regular events and contests — e.g. freestyle hackathon design sessions — that invite contributors to invent working prototypes in less than 48 hours.
It’s also important to teach your people that the perception that a plan or program has to be 100% perfect and flawless — because it stops us from moving forward — is often the enemy of completion. And that the concept of ‘good enough’ — because it forces us to hone our time and efforts, and allows us to quickly gain real-world feedback faster to help shape ideas for the better — is often the start of something great. The more you can get people to adopt a minimum viable product (MVP) mindset, where they routinely use the least time and resources possible to create working concepts, then learn from these concepts’ deployment, the better off you’ll be.
In effect, the more you ingrain these principles — and work to both create leaders at every level and facilitate smart, cost-effective learning and experimentation programs — the more effective your enterprise will be.
As today’s most successful leaders are aware, change is far less difficult to deal with when you make a point to promote ‘positive’ disruption within your organization, and stay in tune with changing times and trends by revising your solutions and operating strategies as well. | AC&F |