Plan for success; assume failure: intriguing way to look at small business innovation

by | Small Business Consulting

Late in 2014, we conducted a study to find out, in part, whether or not small business owners saw themselves as entrepreneurs – and the answer was a resounding “yes.” So, you can expect more news from us in 2015 that is tailored for the entrepreneurial mind. In this post, we’ve identified a couple of sources that we haven’t mentioned in the past. See what you think!

“Success is not all that complicated. [Serial entrepreneur Steve] Blank’s advice: ‘Plan for success, assume failure.’ And keep innovating.”

Intriguing quote, isn’t it? It’s from an article titled How Can Small Businesses be More Innovative? and other key points from this article include the following:

  • In the 20th century, companies could hold market share by just focusing on core products – and improving them by using better materials, offering lower prices and so forth – or through acquisitions.
  • In the 21st century, successful businesses must “master continuous innovation.” Steps can include:
    • Recognizing that rules for success have changed and your business can be disrupted by a startup at any time
    • Constantly running a series of small experiments, knowing that most will fail; keep them cheap and, if you’re going to fail, then fail quickly

Another key quote from Steve Blank: “The world has changed. We’re breeding better entrepreneurs. The dumbest entrepreneurs today have more access to information than the smartest entrepreneurs in the 1980s.”

In another article on the site, How to Create a Culture of Innovation and Help Your Business Thrive, it’s stated that your behavior as a small business leader can “make or break innovation.” A recent survey, the article says, shows that only 43 percent of employees believe their boss is open to unique ideas and opinions. What would your employees say about you? Are you sure?

Re-evaluate your leadership style, especially if you can say “yes” to any one of these questions:

  • “Do you often dismiss others’ ideas offhand because you’re pressed for time?”
  • “Do you immediately look for the reason an idea won’t work rather than remaining open to exploring its possibilities?”
  • “Do you ask for new ideas but not use them?”

We recommend that you read the entire article for interesting solutions to the innovation challenge.

If you’re ready to take a deep dive into the concept of innovation, we recommend that you take a look at an article that provides links to the Top 100 Innovation Articles of 2014. You can also look at the top 100 from 2012 and 2013.

For a quick look at the workplace of the future, check out this infographic. For help in developing language around innovation that is understood throughout your company, this article by Braden Kelley should help. He quotes John Kotter and his six key characteristics of an effective vision, which are that the vision should be:

  • Imaginable
  • Desirable
  • Feasible
  • Focused
  • Flexible
  • Communicable

Whatever vision you and your company creates, Kelley says, it’s important that you can answer these two questions:

  • Where are we focusing our innovation efforts?
  • Why are we pursuing innovation?

Finally, for quick bites on information about innovation, we recommend this slideshow: 99 Facts on the Future of Innovation in 2014. Here are just three. The first is a reminder of a strength you possess as a small business owner or manager; the second illustrates the importance of content on your website; and the third is a prediction:

  • “More than 70% of customers surveyed believe small businesses understand their customer better than large companies, know their business/product better than large companies, provide a more personal customer service experience than large companies and ‘are more concerned about my needs than larger companies’ (American Express Global Customer Service Barometer, 2012)”
  • “The average number of sources of content consumed by a shopper in a purchase doubled from 2010 to 2011 going from 5 to 10 pieces of content consumed (Google)”
  • “90% of all Internet traffic in 2017 will be video (Cisco)”

In what ways are you embracing innovation in your small business? What is new in 2015? What challenges do you face? Please share in the comments below.

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