“Good is the enemy of great.” – Jim Collins
New, better, faster, stronger, and exciting are words that are usually coupled with innovation. We want to positively impact our world by showing everyone a spectacular idea that no one else has ever conceived. We want the Mona Lisa piloting a fighter jet while sipping a latte of ideas to validate our coveted title as “innovator.” That’s great, go get ’em, tiger … but is that what your business needs? Does innovation always have to center around the “we’re going to do something new and different” to make an impact on your operations? At some points in a business’s lifespan, the organization is sailing along smoothly. During these times, the best innovations might just come from scraping the barnacles off the ship’s hull. We need to look at our worst practices that drag down productivity and profitability. Admittedly, examining what our company does lousy isn’t flashy, but it can be hugely impactful.
A few years back, a major grocery chain was looking to increase their margins. They had always shipped their 12 pack sodas in low-cut cardboard trays. Someone in logistics realized there was no need to do this. Each of the pallets the logistics center was sending to stores was shrink-wrapped so the cases of soda wouldn’t skid off the pallets in transportation. After some testing, the theory held and the cost savings on cardboard alone were hundreds of thousands of dollars, every cent of which dropped straight to the bottom line. That innovation is about as mundane as they get, but the impact was greater than rolling out a new product, with far less risk.
What we want and what our business needs can be two different things. A truly innovative leader assesses the whole business and applies creative flair for problem-solving where the need lies.
Making Good Things Better: Accelerators
- Take a walk. Get out and meander around your project, business or workplace. Just walk, and observe, ask questions … and think.
- Each time you do this, go back to your office and take notes on the feedback you receive, on your experiences, your observations, and your ideas.
- After you’ve done this a few times, identify two or three “improvements” you can make to how the work gets done and share them with your team. Work together to implement them!
Dr. Jeff D. Standridge is the best-selling author of “The Innovator’s Field Guide” and “The Top Performer’s Field Guide.” He serves as Managing Director for the Conductor and Innovation Junkie, and teaches in the College of Business at the University of Central Arkansas. Jeff helps organizations and their leaders generate sustained results in the areas of innovation, strategy, profit growth, organizational effectiveness and leadership. Learn more at InnovationJunkie.com.