I had just completed two workshops a few days apart for two of the largest global construction firms. While they build very different things, one theme dominated the corporate mandate guiding the training: Innovation. How can we drive innovative thinking to bring more value to stakeholders?
It’s a common question for most of the organizations I train, regardless of whether they are in the public or private sector. The long-abandoned, traditional answer to the question is: We’ll wait for someone in the C-Suite to tell us what new thing we should do.
Of course, we all know business is moving too quickly to wait for top-down directives to gain forward momentum. In fact, the most effective change moves in the opposite direction: From the bottom-up, as those closest to customers understand what brings value to them.
One company I worked with recently described how their division implemented a new ordering protocol for customers that dramatically shortened delivery times. Their division crafted a plan and got it quickly approved by upper management.
What was the key to this change? The director of that unit pulled out her Innovator Card and started having conversations with team members about customer challenges and the feedback she was hearing on delivery promptness.
Rather than sit on it, she acted.
After the change was successfully implemented, she continued to play her Innovator Card by telling others in the company about it. She told a straightforward success story about how the innovation increased orders, improved customer satisfaction and reduced costs internally.
When I heard this story, I recalled an article about the four building blocks of transformation.
The first building block is: Create a Strategic Identity. Articulate a single desirable future for your enterprise and focus all your efforts on achieving it.
The article talks about how successful companies, like Apple, IDEA, Starbucks, and Honda create a fully coherent, differentiated, strategic identity. They commit to a single, overarching way of doing business that reflects a grand vision of the company they need to be. The article highlights the transition Conagra Brands made around a more focused strategic identity.
The second building block is: Design for Trust. To get buy-in from employees, customers, investors and other stakeholders, it’s vital to build trust by making a clear and compelling case for the value of creating a new strategic identity.
The third and fourth building blocks are: Master the Pivot from Sprint to Scale and Treat your Legacy as an Asset. Both of these building blocks address the issue of how to both create value and take advantage of the newly-created value derived from the new strategic identity.
The point is that building a strong, focused strategic identity requires playing the Innovator Card. This card is a vital partner with the Leader Card.
Leaders are expected to be innovators and press their organizations to progress along strategically focused paths. This Innovator Card should be used in at least 10-20% of a leader’s messages. Are you reaching this bar?