Do you only associate innovation with those well-known products that changed the course of human history? We all can list “The Big Product Innovations”: the light bulb, telephone, airplane, Post-It-Notes, the Apple personal computer, and the iPhone. OK, maybe Post-It-Notes doesn’t really make the list of “Big Ones”, but I bet you still have some!
In 380 BC, Plato wrote the following in his ancient book exploring issues of governance and leadership, The Republic:
“Necessity is the mother of invention.”
Viewing innovation with a too narrow a lens will restrict the impact of your leadership, and confine your business to achieving industry-average results at best. Most innovations are not products at all, but are instead changes in the service process that result in increasing the well-being of the recipients of that service.
It’s easy to forget that it isn’t the automobile that Henry Ford became famous for, it was his concept and implementation of the assembly line process. It was through his “process innovation” that Ford reduced the cost of the already-developed automobile and made them affordable to millions of people, which ultimately increased the well-being of a significant segment of the world.
Today’s visionary leaders are applying Plato’s “Necessity” to the reality of today’s service marketplace. Let’s expand our list of big innovations now to include: FedEx, AT&T’s conference-calling (it was invented by Walter L. Shaw of AT&T), Wal-Mart and Google. Each of these names invoke “not a physical product”, but instead “major service innovations” that again increased the well-being of millions of people, even billions.
Even when we expand the definition of innovation to correctly include “major service innovations”, it is still too restrictive. The American marketplace creates the financial incentives necessary for ALL entrepreneurs and company leaders to constantly seek to innovate ways to increase the well-being of their customers and clients, in order to increase their company’s profitability.
As a corporate manager for a division of GE, I was confronted with “figure out a way” or “get out of the way”. This seeming conundrum resulted in a service innovation that changed the “consumer rewards industry”. My team found a way to deliver restaurant discounts to consumers, without requiring the consumer to “flash a restaurant rewards card” and risk rejection by a wily restaurateur who sees a standing-room-only dining room, or a corporate executive who faces embarrassment in front of colleagues by flashing a discount card to pay for a business meal. The service innovation created out of necessity by my GE team, is now the norm for consumer rewards.
Then, as the owner of a franchise location of a computer-support business, I again had a front-row seat into the mind of Plato. As an entrepreneur and service-business owner, I found it was indeed a necessity to find some way to increase my company’s profitability, or face insolvency. Along with other innovative franchise owners, we each found a way to deliver a service innovation that set our company apart from our competition, in an effort to increase the well-being of our customers who have many options in their technology vendor selection. Looking back, each of my successful franchise colleagues had slightly modified Plato’s famous quote to read, “Innovate or Die!”
The above innovations that I was so privileged to be a part of, will never be widely documented, except with those colleagues who were part of the teams I led. Each member of those teams became part of Plato’s innovative process, and they experienced the power of contributing their time and talent toward a bold team goal that was bigger than their individual abilities, but within reach of their collective abilities.
“Leading a team of ordinary people to achieve extraordinary results” is the biggest field for innovation that exists in today’s service economy. Those company leaders who embrace this wider and ancient view of innovation, will find new ways to increase the well-being of their customers, and will be well-rewarded in the marketplace for doing so.
BOLDbreak has one purpose, and that is to provide team leaders and company owners the tools and training they need, to develop an unstoppable Surging Team, a team that repeatedly succeeds in achieving difficult and important company objectives. When teams win, increased company profitability follows! Contact me today and let’s discuss some strategies that your company can adopt that will help your team of ordinary people find innovative ways to increase the well-being of your customers, and help your company achieve extraordinary financial results.
Until then, Keep Winning!