Sunday, April 13, 2008


Which innovations can amplify your impact or save you time or create more value? Innovations in your approach. It's one thing to try to innovate in your products. It's another to innovate your process. Innovating in your process can unleash your capability, create more value, reduce costs, ... etc. To get in the right mindset, you have to think of your business as a product. It doesn't matter whether you're working from home or working in a large corporation, your system of results is an opportunity for innovation. In The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It, Michael E. Gerber writes about focusing your innovation efforts on your business habits and practices.

Innovation Does New Things
Gerber writes how creativity is thinking, but innovation is doing:

Innovation is often thought of as creativity. But as Harvard Professor Theodore Levitt points out, the difference between creativity and Innovation is the difference between thinking about getting things done in the world and getting things done. Says Professor Levitt, "Creativity thinks up new things. Innovation does new things."

Innovate Your Approach
Gerber writes about focusing your innovation efforts on your process:

The Franchise Revolution has brought with it an application of innovation that has been almost universally ignored by American business. By recognizing that it is not the commodity that demands Innovation but the process by which it is sold, the franchisor aims his innovative energies at the way in which his business does business.

To the franchisor, the entire process by which the business does business is a marketing tool, a mechanism for finding and keeping customers. Each and every component of the business system is a means through which the franchsisor can differentiate his business from all other businesses in the mind of his consumer.

Your Business is the Product
Gerber writes that your business is your product:

Where the business is the product, how the business interacts with its consumer is more important than what it sells. And how doesn't have to be expensive to be effective. In fact, some of the most powerful Innovations have required little more than the change of a few words, a gesture, the color of clothing. Innovation, then, is the mechanism through which your business identifies itself in the mind of your customer and establishes its individuality. It is the result of a scientifically generated and quantifiably verified profile of your customer's perceived needs and unconscious expectations.

The "Best Way" Skill
Gerber writes that innovation is the "best way" skill:

It is the skill developed within your business and your people that is constantly asking, "What is the best way to do this?" knowing, even as the question is asked, that we will never discover the best way, but by asking we will assuredly discover a way that's better than the one we know now.

In that regard, I think of Innovation as the "Best Way" skill. It produces a high level of energy in every company within it's nurtured, fed, and stimulated, energy that in turn feeds everyone the company touches -- it's employees, customers, suppliers, and lenders. In an innovative company everyone grows. There's no doubt about it: Innovation is the signature of a bold, imaginative hand.

Key Take Aways
Here's my key take aways:

  • Innovation does new things. I like this distinction between creativity and innovation. I often see smart people with great ideas get stuck thinking, but not doing doing and learning. Analysis paralysis is one of the worst enemies of results.
  • Innovate in your approach. Your approach is your system for results. If you innovate here, you can amplify your impact, save time and create more value.
  • Your business is the product. Adopting this mindset helps you shift from thinking about innovation in your product, to innovation in your process.
  • Know your system for results. Hunt and gather your processes and procedures. Walk your processes end-to-end and you'll quickly start to find areas for improvements.

Back at Work
I've experienced the benefits of process innovation first-hand. I've run multiples projects and multiple teams and I've experimented with various approaches over the years. Having created both product innovations and innovating in terms of approach, I think it's approach innovations that carries me further and continue to serve me.

In fact, it's my approaches that help me unblock innovation and turn insights into results. It's my systems for results that are far more important than any particular product.

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Linda said...

Hi J.D.,

Thanks for telling me about this book -- it's on my To Be Read list.

Here's one for you that I just finished and highly recommend -- Jack's Notebook by Gregg Fraley.

It is about creative problem solving (or innovation as you describe above) and it is an interesting read b/c it is in the format of a business fable. Fiction and non-fiction intertwine and it is an innovative approach to innovation ;-)

The creative problem solving skills I learned in it can be applied to one's business or life.


J.D. Meier said...

Hey Linda

Thanks for the recommendation. I've added Jack's Notebook to my queue.

I'm curious -- what did you learn in the book that surprised you the most?


Linda said...

Hi J.D.,

I never realized before that creativity, or creative problem solving, could actually be taught. I thought people either were born with the skill to some degree or other or not, and that was the extent of it.

It's nice to know all of us can enhance our abilities in this way. So, I'm not giving up on my kids! LOL