Visit Our Store June 2, 2011

In This Issue:
Polish Your Innovation Skills
What Keeps Your Customer up at Night?
Situation Room: Unexpected Walk-Off
Book Review: The Checklist Manifesto

Polish Your Innovation Skills

“Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.”~William Pollard

Did you know that at most companies, executives don’t feel personally responsible for being innovative? Strangely, they tend to feel that they are personally responsible for facilitating innovation, which is entirely different from actually coming up with the grand concepts that have created unique new business models and products.

So, what makes innovators different? Are innovators born or made? Studies of identical twins separated at birth have shown that our ability to think creatively comes one-third from genetics, and two-thirds of the innovation skill set comes through learning.

According to a six-year study conducted by Harvard Business Review authors, there are five habits that reveal the underpinnings of creative thinking. These habits are embraced by innovators such as Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com, Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines and Peter Thiel of PayPal. Would you like to share in the secret? Here we go:

The Top Five Habits of Innovators

1. Associating

The ability to successfully connect seemingly unrelated questions, problems, or ideas from different fields.

2. Questioning

Constantly asking questions that challenge common wisdom.

3. Observing

Scrutinizing common phenomena-looking out for common behaviors and figuring out how things could be done differently.

4. Experimenting

Actively trying out new ideas by creating prototypes and launching pilots. (Think of Edison who said, “I haven’t failed. I’ve simply found 10,000 ways that do not work.”).

5. Networking

Devoting time and energy to finding and testing new ideas through a network of individuals and organizations.

And what motivates innovators? According to one study, innovators actively desire to change the status quo, and they regularly take risks to make change happen. So, what are you waiting for? Start your innovation education today!

We have many articles and materials on our website to help you with innovation. Click here to get started.

What Keeps Your Customer up at Night?

So here the economy is looking up, but we’re not out of the woods yet. The good news is that companies (probably including yours) have made it through slumps before, and are learning new ways to cope every day.

The not so good news is that your organization probably needs to re-assess its sales tactics and focus on spreading new tactics throughout the sales system.

How do you ensure that room is created in your customer’s budget for your services? It all starts with developing a provocative point of view on a critical issue, directly to a senior executive or the senior purchaser.

Find the problems that your customer has, that your organization can address.

What is the one issue or situation that keeps your customer up at night? Is there an area that is being ignored or ineffectively addressed by the existing processes or systems? Maybe you have found that sweet spot, but addressing that issue would require some retooling on the part of your company. Now is the time to do it. Who will survive and thrive in the current climate? Companies that are agile enough to change their products and offerings as needed, that’s who.

Identifying a big problem that is a threat to the bottom line is what makes it worthwhile for an executive (or other decision maker) to meet with you.

The Harvard Business Review gives a compelling argument for provocation-based selling over solution selling. “…In a severe downturn, provocation-based selling may be the only way to move past the ‘buy nothing’ mantra emanating from customer organizations. In sunnier economic times it can lend power and urgency to products or services that are non-disruptive or are relatively undifferentiated in their markets.”

Of course, solutions are still at the base of your company’s offerings within your market. However, there are distinct differences in these two tactics. Let’s look at some examples of these differences:

Solution Selling Provocation-Based Selling
Aligns with the prevailing point of view Challenges the prevailing point of view
Begins with technical proof and then builds a business case Begins with a business case (a need) and then provides technical proof
Asks questions to identify needs Uses an insightful hypothesis to provoke a response

Here is the bottom line: As the vendor, you must identify a process that is critical for customers in the current business environment, develop a compelling point of view on how it is currently broken and what that means in terms of cost.

Proceed by offering the solution to this ‘keep you up at night’ situation. In short, the process begins with a customer’s problems rather than the solution that you are selling. How can you shift your organization’s efforts to provocation-based selling? It may be the key you need to get back in the door.

Situation Room: Unexpected Walk-Off

John is the CEO of a niche beverage company. Its juices and natural sodas have been delivered regionally to restaurants and supermarkets for the last eight years; recently the company has expanded its delivery to a five-state area.

John is thrilled about the growth, but in the midst of this expansion, Damon, his distribution manager, walked off the job. The assistant manager is eager to step up and fill Damon’s shoes, but he lacks experience.

What would you do?

Book Review: The Checklist Manifesto

This bestseller, written by surgeon and staff writer for The New Yorker, Dr. Atul Gawande, gives compelling evidence for the power of using checklists to simplify processes and standardize results.

The Checklist Manifesto (Henry Holt, 2010), provides numerous case studies and interesting anecdotes about the strides made with the use of a simple checklist. Dr. Gawande starts by showing us how checklists can revolutionize quality of care in medicine, and continues by showing how the volume and complexity of tasks in all of our lives can be greatly simplified by the use of checklists.

This book is not only an interesting read, but will change the way you run your business and life!