In today's fast-changing market, maintaining the status quo isn't an option. Even with advancing technologies, competition for talent, and new regulations that can change business conditions regularly, a recent survey conducted by my team at Vistage found that 70 percent of small and midsize business CEOs are projecting revenue growth this year.
While some of these growth expectations are fueled by expansion tactics such as acquisitions, entering new geographies, and marketing efforts, our analysis uncovered something else: High-growth companies (those that achieved 10 percent or greater revenue growth last year and forecast 10 percent or greater growth this year) are making bigger bets on innovation.
Analysis of the survey of 1,432 CEOs conducted late last year suggests these high-growth companies are 39 percent more likely to develop new processes to improve existing products and services. This kind of incremental innovation is important -- but it's just the start.
High-growth companies are also 37 percent more likely to rely on radical innovations -- the kinds of breakthroughs that give the world something it's not seen before. Risky? Maybe. Rewarding? Definitely: They are 50 percent more likely to provide new products and services, and 58 percent more likely to develop patentable technologies.
1. Never stop improving.
From accelerating processes to tightening workflows to clarifying communications, high-performing companies are relentlessly focused on getting better. How do they succeed?
It starts with a senior team that recognizes innovation as a key source of competitive advantage. It continues by their creating a culture of experimentation and open communication that encourages innovation from both the top down and bottom up.
2. Seek out radical innovation on a smaller scale.
What makes an innovation "radical" has nothing to do with size and everything to do with impact. For example, introducing a new product or capability, along with a new message to market, can serve as radical innovation on a smaller scale.
Driving disruption can lead to tremendous rewards, but it requires tough decision-making and strong leadership on the part of the CEO.
3. If something breaks, use innovative thinking to fix it.
At one time or another, every business has something go wrong. What separates high performers from the rest is how they react to that challenge. They don't play the blame game, wait for others to fix it, or just rely on what worked last time.
Instead, they assess the situation quickly, pivot rapidly around an innovative solution, and rally a team around that shared goal.
4. Picture your worst-case scenario.
What would you do if Amazon announced a solution that targeted your customers and made your go-to-market model irrelevant? What if a competitor acquired a smaller player, launched a better product, or hired your superstar?
Prepare for these scenarios before they happen. Why not take your team offsite for one day to proactively brainstorm innovative solutions?
5. Leverage the relentless pace of change.
Respect the fact that there is no status quo anymore. Things are always changing. As a CEO, the question you must ask yourself is: Do I recognize, anticipate, and leverage that pace of change, or do I wait for a crisis to hit that will force me to innovate under pressure? In either case, innovation is required for survival and growth. Better to choose the former.