Sacred Cow: One that is often immune from criticism or opposition - Merriam-Webster

At the heart of an innovative culture, you'll find a spirit of open-mindedness and an eye towards future trends and their business impact. Countless articles point towards companies like Blockbuster, Polaroid, MySpace, and Blackberry as examples of the catastrophic results of misguided growth strategies.

Many factors were surely at play with all of these examples, but it's fair to say that in one way or another, all of those companies fell victim to their own sacred cows. It's easy to take pot-shots at the executives of these companies as being short-sighted, but especially with public companies, these major shifts in strategy are complicated and vulnerable to more forces than a quick glance might acknowledge.

Regardless of your company's size, one scenario that often stops progress is the presence of "sacred cows" - beliefs that go unchallenged, effectively placing blinders on the company's leadership. Here are some examples of assumptions that may be holding back your growth.

You Know Who Your Customer Is

Knowing your core customer is at the heart of effective marketing and sales. Over time, those demographics often shift. Learning as much as possible about who your customers are and regularly revisiting that evaluation are critical steps for your company's continued growth.

Annual customer demographic reports establish trendlines that can help you to anticipate shifts in your client base before they happen and adjust marketing or product decisions accordingly.

You Know What They Want

In addition to revisiting your customer demographics, it's important to examine their needs on a regular basis. Buyer surveys (with the option to choose "other" as a response and write expanded answers) and social media listening can help you uncover unmet needs that could turn into your next growth opportunity.
Establishing the voice of the customer programs can help to formalize this information gathering and dissemination while adding the accountability to act on feedback.

You Know What You Can and Can't Do

It's possible that you know exactly what your customer's unmet needs are, but you dismiss them as outside of your wheelhouse or "not what we do here." While it's important to focus on your core business first, challenging your own beliefs about what your company can do may energize your team and uncover a new understanding of your real capabilities.

Adopting an innovation model to guide the presentation and vetting of ideas will help to make that decision making process effective and consistent.

Having a plan to consistently gather and take action on this information based on your company's goals is critical to keep it from falling to the back burner. Adopting processes to regularly evaluate these key areas will help guide your growth strategy with clarity and evidence-based insights.