I always imagined, when I first started my own business, that I would be the 'cool' one, constantly innovating and doing new stuff. I realized a few things after actually owning my first business for a few years; 1) in order to do this there must be a system in place and 2) it isn't easy. I was really onto something, even though I had no idea then what it really meant to be in a state of constant innovation. What I've learned from 20+years of innovating (for myself and for others) is that while it is so incredibly important to be the one out in front, the competition is very stiff. A recent study by Global Entrepreneurship Monitor projects that 39% of the products entering our marketplace are considered new and innovative. That number is huge, but don't panic just yet.
The Solution Is To Be Your Own Biggest Competitor
I talked with Dr. Nilda Perez, CEO of Foresight Strategies Group, a futurist and business strategist, for entrepreneurs and big businesses. She has delved into the trends that shape the future of businesses with the aim of preparing thought leaders to build their business for perpetual innovation future growth and resilience. Tapping into her wisdom on these topics proved that the path isn't easy, but it isn't impossible either, if you know what you're doing.
Becoming An Innovation Machine Requires The Following:
- The focus should be on you, not them. Nike uses this method to remain in a constant state of innovation, by always focusing on their own growth trajectory rather than potential competitors. The result for their business is that they are in a league all their own, truly. It's not about breaking what works. It's about growing those and replacing those that don't with something more innovative.
- You have to be open to everything. An open-growth mindset is so imperative and maybe more difficult than it sounds to achieve. The reason is because business can be very personal, especially to those of us who have bootstrapped; blood, sweat, and tears to make it. But again, as mentioned above, it isn't about letting go of what is working or your foundation, it's about constantly making what works better, re-imagining it... that's what it means to innovate , and the momentum you create will energize your business.
- You have to be willing to look outside of your industry. Innovation is happening all around us, and just because you are in the marketing field, doesn't mean you can't look at a tech sector to see how they are innovating. Inspiration for growth usually comes from unlikely sources. Think about a time you had an AHA! Moment or when you got your best idea ever. Were you doing anything related to the thought or idea? Probably not. Same theory applies. Get comfortable looking within business & industry at current and potential up-and-coming trends, but also at parallel or alternative industries.
- You better get comfortable being alone. If you are always going ahead of the competition, you will consistently create 'me-only' territories. Yea, it's lonely at the top. But you know what else it is at the top? Fulfilling. These spots are reserved for those willing to continuously forge a path ahead, who aren't afraid to be different and take risks, rather than copying others and playing it safe. Renegades in business, like Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey, or Steve Jobs, end up changing the world and that doesn't happen without risk and accelerated growth.
- Learn your own definitions of creativity and innovation. What does it mean for you to innovate? How are you able to be creative? Start asking yourself and your team these questions to help everyone better understand what these words specifically mean to you and your strategies.
- And finally, handle all the business details to leave room for innovation. If you spend every waking second catching up on paperwork, or returning calls, you'll never get to the part where you innovate. Make sure you have systems in place for every aspect of your business. As Aaron Scott Young says, "If you can learn to systematize all of those details and the pieces that require attention, but not necessarily your attention, you will free up more time that you can actually focus on the creative aspects, innovating, and moving your business forward."
Dr. Perez had such insightful knowledge on how businesses can be resilient and sustainable, protecting themselves against complacency, by learning to operate comfortably with quick shifts, and that isn't the first time we've heard this.
It's All About You
When you can compete with yourself faster than you are competing with others, you're always going to be out ahead. When you can do better today that you did yesterday, consistently, you'll outpace everyone. So, yes, while competing with others provides you an opportunity to be better, competing with yourself provides you an opportunity to be the best.