The wise business leader treats innovation as a seedling to be sheltered from distractions, treated with care, and prized as the very lifeblood of their company’s future. Shortsighted leaders see innovation activities as costs to be endured or manipulated for this quarter’s financial report. They chase away your best innovators, brightest ideas, and future growth. Be careful: The person you allow to lead today will determine the strength of your business tomorrow.
More in video, Leader’s Guide to B2B Organic Growth series, Video#30
It’s different for consumer goods innovators, who can often observe end-consumers and then come up with clever solutions. But B2B innovators must approach their customers with hat in hand and humbly ask, “Can you help me understand your world?” Remarkably few do this. Just as remarkably, B2B customers love it when they do. The customer becomes the teacher, the supplier the student… and both are rewarded with market-changing innovation.
More in white paper, Guessing at Customer Needs
For artillery, archery or cancer treatment, you 1) scan the terrain, 2) detect the high-value targets, and 3) then commence firing. If you have weak reconnaissance, faulty satellite imagery or a blindfolded archer, it doesn’t matter how good your payload is: You won’t be successful. In NPD, this means 1) diverge to all possible customer outcomes, 2) find which are important and unsatisfied, and 3) develop your solution. Most B2B companies need to improve #1 and #2. A lot.
More in video, New Product Blueprinting—the Future of B2B Innovation
Tipping the first domino is a first-order action, the second tipped domino is the second-order effect, and so on. Strangely, if the first order action feels satisfying all by itself, you’re probably headed for trouble with subsequent effects. So it might feel good to slash spending to hit this quarter’s numbers… but your future growth will be stymied. In fact, your slow growth today is probably the culmination of many first-order actions you’ve long since forgotten.
More in article, Stop Stifling B2B Organic Growth with 2nd Order Effects
Who do you admire as a great business leader? Steve Jobs? Henry Ford? Jeff Bezos? And why? Because they were good at financial reviews and quarterly investor calls? Of course not. They impressed you because they marched to a different beat and transformed their companies… and even whole industries. So let’s spend less time pleasing Wall Street analysts and behave like the great business leaders we admire… and could ourselves become.
More in video, Leader’s Guide to B2B Organic Growth series, Video Lesson #30
This is what Astro Teller—the head of Google X—used to cheer with his teams. He went on to explain, “We spend most of our time trying to prove we’re wrong.” Is that how your company looks at big, transformational projects? Or do you associate a killed project with personal failure? Much better to lay out all the assumptions of “what must be true” for your project to succeed. Then go on a team “hunt” to find any that are not true. Find one? Celebrate and move on to the next project!
More in video at Project De-risking with Minesweeper
Over the years, we’ve seen business leaders question the employee time and airfare bills needed to interview customers in the front-end of innovation. But how much R&D and marketing was squandered developing a product that made customers yawn? That’s a question that should probably be asked more often.
More in white paper, Guessing at Customer Needs
The landmark book, The Three Rules, shows exceptional companies focus on a) creating higher-value products, not cheaper ones, and b) revenue growth, not cost-cutting. What initiatives are you focused on? Quality, productivity, global expansion, and acquisitions can be useful, but none will propel you toward growth that is rapid, profitable, and sustainable. Don’t let these side shows distract you from the main show… understanding and meeting customer needs better than others. As Peter Drucker said, “the purpose of business is to create and keep customers.”
More in video, Leader’s Guide to B2B Organic Growth series, Video Lesson #6
Does this seem like terrible advice? Especially in our age of hyper-attention to quarterly results? But if you focus too much on business results, you’ll degrade them over time. Why? You must also focus on capabilities. Steven Covey cautioned us to balance P (production or “results”) with PC (productive capability). Sadly, many business leaders forget the “capabilities” part. One capability is understanding the needs of your customers… so you can develop better products… for better business results.
See The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Steven Covey
Some business leaders fixate on the short-term out of fear: They are cowed by Wall Street analysts’ reaction to their quarterly results. But others pump up near-term results to fatten their bonuses… even if it means crippling their company’s future capacity to grow. This is leadership larceny… stealing from the business’s tomorrow to benefit the leader’s today. The first rule of leadership is this: “Leave your business stronger than you found it.”
More e-book, Leader’s Guide to B2B Organic Growth