The other day I was watching my daughter play bubble soccer - a whimsical version of traditional soccer with a twist - each player is wearing a giant, plastic, air-filled bubble that leads to lots of bumping, bouncing and rolling.
It made me think about how surviving bubble soccer is a lot like advancing new ideas in the corporate world. You'll inevitably bump against resistance, while trying not to bounce out of bounds. Finding the right ways to pursue innovation in corporations or big industries requires equal parts determination and delicacy.
Lee Iacocca's Build Up from Bankruptcy
In 1980, Chrysler had just lost 1.7 billion and was facing a dark future on the edge of bankruptcy. Hundreds of thousands of jobs were in peril. Lee Iacocca came to their rescue with a risky plan: convince the Government to lend them over $1 billion and invest in innovation. Unfortunately, opposition was everywhere. Iacocca had to convince union leaders and their workers to accept unlikable concessions. He needed to persuade bankers to accept losses on large loans. And then he still had to sway lawmakers to vote for unpopular loan guarantees. And miraculously, he did.
Through sheer confidence and determination, Iacocca was able to set his plan in motion. He put Chrysler's loans to use through the development of new products, like the compact K-cars, which helped them raise their market share by 3%. But, he didn't stop there. Iacocca continued to innovate and iterate his models when other car manufacturers resisted and stumbled.
Innovation is rarely easy. In fact, it normally comes during scary or desperate times. Iacocca taught us that even the best ideas do not travel far without buy-in from invested parties. And that the salesmanship of innovation is as important as innovation itself. Come armed with grit and charm and you can push through even the most controversial change.
The Merger Heard 'Round the Retail World
Sometimes, individuals or entrepreneurs can be the driver of innovation. Other times, an entire industry is forced to re-evaluate their way of doing business.
Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods has retailers around the world buzzing. No longer can rivals like Target and Walmart ignore the force of online shopping. What is the new role of the retailer? The only thing for certain - they must innovate and evolve in order to survive.
Even strong competitors are feeling the push from outside their bubble - and they're responding so they don't get bounced out. Walmart acquired Jet.com, raising their online sales by 63%. They're also hoping to expand their sales even further by selling their products on Google Express, the organization's online shopping mall. This partnership is looking towards the future, hoping to encourage Walmart repurchases through Google Home - the company's response to Amazon Echo. Target is partnering with online leaders, too. They headed Casper's online funding -so don't be surprised to see an in-store mattress showroom on Target's floor next year. These changes reflect a new direct-to-consumer model that embraces the way people shop today. And a pressured response to the moves made by innovation moguls like Amazon. The retailers that stick with in-store sales will unfortunately find themselves continuing to struggle.
These days, innovation is no longer reserved for the tech-forward giants of Silicon Valley. It's a looming inevitably for every corporation - from small start-ups to huge industry leaders that want to survive a rapidly changing economy. With the right ideas, employees should feel empowered to encourage innovation and change. Start with a great pitch, remind others of the changing competition and be prepared to burst a few bubbles on your way.