Stop Trying to Fix What’s Broken
Continuous Improvement vs. Innovation
There’s nothing wrong with continuous improvement. It’s essential, in fact. But far too often people tell themselves that they’re continually improving when what they’re really doing is putting Band-Aids on processes that are simply outdated.
We’ve all heard the supposedly-said-by Henry Ford quote, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
And yes, maybe Henry Ford didn’t actually say it, but it has stuck because it strikes a chord of truth: sometimes we get stuck trying to improve a dead solution when what we really need is something truly new, an innovation.
So why do we get stuck? Innovation is hard. It’s ambiguous. It’s building an entirely new structure as opposed to slapping on some pretty paint. Innovation requires:
- Finding or creating a way to see something you’ve been doing for years from a whole new perspective.
- Using your discoveries from the new perspective to design a new solution to your challenge.
- Finding a way to build that solution at a reasonable cost and with minimal interruption to your business.
That’s just three bullets but each of those steps is actually a huge process. Each one can feel completely insurmountable, particularly when you’re trying to do them at a reasonable cost and without interrupting your profit-generating processes.
So how do we get unstuck? The answer is both simple and equally insurmountable, depending on how you approach it. The secret to actually achieving transformative innovation is this: strategic partnership. And not just any strategic partnership. You need senior executives — the people who are in charge of driving the solutions and innovation for your company — to have strategic partnerships with the senior executives at the manufacturers and technology providers who can help you create the innovative solutions you need.
When you have strong, senior-level strategic partnerships in place with your key solution providers, you can
- Share your challenges so that your partners understand what solutions you actually need, not just what they have to sell.
- Find out the technology roadmaps of your partners, allowing you to get a jump on new solutions.
- Bring together several different partners’ solutions to create real innovation efficiently.
But where do we find those partners? Partnership sounds great and all, but who has the time to wade through the ocean of solutions and technology? The first problem is that with most solutions, your only option is to read their Website and marketing materials, but that’s just the information they want you to know. How can you figure out if they really fit your needs without … contacting them? And then when you DO contact them, you get a sales person. And a sales pitch.
Even if you spent the months required to do all this, you’re now in contact with a sales rep, not a senior executive. So, how do you get to the person you need?
You need an eXchange. I started VerticalXchange to solve this problem. We put the buyer in the driver’s seat. We interview your senior executives to find out what your most pressing challenges are, how you do business, what kinds of companies would make the best potential partners. Then we match you with manufacturers and technology providers who meet those needs. We bring you to a three-day eXchange, where you meet with 10 to 15 of those providers in one-on-one, senior level meetings.
Try to do that on your own, and you’ll need to dedicate months and a huge chunk of your budget. Do it at an eXchange, and in three days, you’ve made several new partnerships and potentially (depending on who you choose to meet with), you could have taken an existing partnership to a new level.
The American military came up with a term called “VUCA” to describe the environment in our Middle East theaters of battle. It stands for volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. The concept of VUCA quickly made its way into business, and it’s pretty easy to see why. If you want to lead your industry, you must innovate. But the process of creating innovation lands you right in the middle of the VUCA world. You are suddenly facing volatile changes in technology, uncertainty about the complex and ambiguous choices.
Strategic, senior-level partnerships are the only way to navigate VUCA world. They empower you to shape your industry and create the trends the drive profits. And we empower you to create those partnerships.