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The Innovation Culture – it’s all about taking risk and being willing to learn from your mistakes

A friend recently recommended a book she had read that explained something I had noticed about seemingly two different groups of people.   The book is entitled, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” by Carol Dweck, a world renown professor at Stanford University and pioneering researcher in the field of motivation, why people succeed (or don’t) and how to foster success.

In her book, Ms. Deck describes those with a fixed mindset who seem to either plateau at a certain level, or even decline, and those that continue to grow and evolve oftentimes achieving success later in life.   Nowhere is this growth mindset more evident than in this rather famous quote from Michael Jordan who some may know was cut from his high school basketball team.

I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. 

Michael Jordan

Those with the fixed mindset will do everything in their power to maintain a certain standard or perception of intelligence, even resorting to cheating.   For others not knowing the answers is seen positively, as a new challenge to conquer.

For me, this book explains why not everyone is an innovator.   Like the growth mindset, the innovator mindset is about seeing setbacks as opportunities and digging deep to find answers.   According to the book it is possible to teach a growth mindset, moreover, we have a mandate to do so in order to improve lives.   In doing so we could create a new generation of innovators.   A lot of emphasis is placed on replicating the Silicon Valley ecosystem but perhaps the most important element of the ecosystem is gathering together individuals who are inherently committed a growth mindset.

We’ve seen this played out with some of our clients.  We’ve had clients who had a strong vision for what their product or service should be but the market didn’t agree.   In the face of critical market feedback many of these clients were open to new information and went on to pivot until they found a successful way to go to market.  The culture of accepting being wrong as part of the process to learn what works best ultimately drove the success and turnarounds for these companies.

If you’re hitting roadblocks and want to learn what could be blocking your path to success, please contact Vision & Execution to help you troubleshoot your business or product issues.   Together we’ll find the best path forward.

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How important is choosing the right name for your business?

Naming is critically important – it can make marketing your business very expensive or very cost effective. Establishing a brand name early on and then needing to change it downstream only increases the cost of marketing your company. The challenge these days with naming is also finding an available URL – more difficult than finding a name. It’s also critical to evaluate your name for global use – or you will need to rebrand in other countries because your company name is insulting, confusing or otherwise a poor choice for a favorable impression in that country.

If you haven’t done any branding exercises I suggest you take the time to determine what your brand values should be and what that means for your brand “personality.” It might seem fluffy to spend time on this but the exercise will help you determine the type of name you should have (descriptive vs. made up). It also serves to rally your team and makes it easier to make other decisions related to the look and feel of your marketing materials.

Below are some tools you can use to help with this based on a fictional travel company:

Brand Statement
For international travelers who want to simplify the time investment in logistics planning for complex vacations while ensuring optimal travel experiences[target], {company name} is the first provider to deliver a one stop travel site to plan, optimize, organize, book and experience international travel [competitive frame] that leverages in depth, travel expert tested itinerary templates and best available pricing through consolidator partnerships [points of difference] to deliver an effortless experience before, during and after the trip[target’s goal].

Brand Attributes
Effortless

Our expert designed and tested itinerary templates take all the work out of planning international travel especially for multi-city travel.

Trusted

Our full-time travel experts constantly review and optimize our itineraries to ensure that you will have a memorable travel experience making the most of every destination.

Comprehensive

We offer a single point solution to research, plan, book, organize, enjoy and share your vacations. Our in-country support is there to help you should there be any unexpected hiccup in your travel arrangements.

Global

We utilize local travel experts in every region of the world to design the optimal travel experience for the new traveler to the locale

Flexible

Our travel itinerary templates provide a baseline for travelers to customize their own vacations. We actively listen to customer feedback to continually improve and expand our itineraries.

Organized

Our comprehensive travel planning solutions integrates all your travel components into one booking engine including all the travel documents you need for your trip effortlessly saved to your mobile device.

Value Proposition
{company name}is the most complete, simple and value oriented solution for planning, booking, optimizing and experiencing a vacation. {company name} delivers expert recommended, consumer endorsed vacation itineraries from the weekend getaway to a long holiday for the trip of a lifetime where ever you choose to go.

Customer Promise
{company name} ensures an effortless experience planning, booking and enjoying your vacation . We take the time and effort out of realizing your perfect trip- you won’t miss one important highlight on your vacation.

And once you’ve decided on a name or a group of names consider using Feedback Army to test customer appeal for the name.  And lastly be sure to use a good Trademark Search firm to make sure your name is available in every country you want to use it.

Good luck finding the perfect name for your business!

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The Values Trap: Four things Values might do for your company…and four things they won’t

Along with the popular chorus that “Culture beats strategy,”we’ve seen a resurgence in interest in corporate values, based on the observation that values and culture go hand in hand. So in the triune of Corporate Mission, Vision and Values, it seems that values have become of paramount importance.

A good set of values covers what is important…all of what is important. Usually that means the interests of customers and employees at all levels, as well as shareholders, and might extend to the responsibility toward the local community or the broader world. Clarifying and capturing values has many benefits.

What values will do for you:

Values can be inspirational. They call everyone to the higher purpose of the organization. Values can be grounding. They remind employees and managers alike of the guiding principles to apply in the day-to-day work and interactions. The values reinforce the cultural norms you want practiced.

Values can also identify who may be a good fit as an employee or a manager. Preserving and building a culture means that shared values are critical to that end. Making your values clear and public will attract people of like mind.

Values may also be powerful a guide to decision making when faced with a dilemma. Values tell you what is more important than everything else. Nordstrom’s values put customers first, so they have a no-questions-asked policy when an item of clothing is returned. It’s more important to risk a few scammers getting away with wearing and returning a dress, than it is to alienate the vast majority of good customers.

When values-as-professed are aligned with the actions and focus of the company, they embody the culture. But the enthusiasm behind values can be abused as well.

What won’t values do for you?

Values won’t overcome a bad strategy, or one that is a poor fit for particular markets. You still need strategy, and you still need to understand the different markets for your products and design your offerings, product mix and approach to the needs and receptivity of that market. Just having your employees apply the values that work in one market will not make up for bad positioning in another. That’s especially true as companies expand into the international space, using the same marketing, product mix and advertising across vastly different cultures in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Values won’t (by themselves) change the behavior of people who are a bad fit for the organization, although it might disguise their behavior for a time. It will let people know what they must appear to value. Someone once said “Sincerity is the most important thing. Once you can fake that, you’ve got it made.

Values won’t override the effects of misaligned policies and practice. If you say “Customer satisfaction is everything,”but you punish workers who accept customer returns of your product, you’ve just proven that you don’t mean what you say. Customers will notice. And employees know what is really important: the immediate bottom line, not the customers who are the lifeblood of the company. They’ll act accordingly.

One manufacturing organization we studied professed to empower its technical employees to bring quality problems to the attention of management and the customer so they could be addressed. That value was expressed as: “You hold the key to our success.”  But managers were being held accountable to not report bad news to superiors and customers alike. So in the end, “holding the key”really meant that the technical staff had the responsibility for fixing things they had no authority or ability to fix. If they persisted in pushing up the chain of command for attention, their careers would suffer. The cynical restatement of that value became, “You hold the bag,”because the employees were between a rock and a hard place—exhorted to do things that would hurt them personally in the end.

Finally there is one last serious pitfall of focusing only on values.

If you use “values” exhortations instead of addressing the real sources of problems, it will backfire. Not only will it not fix the problem, it may drive people to cynicism and cause customers and employees alike to question the trustworthiness of the entire operation.

A large auto manufacturer declared that “Quality is Job #1”before they accomplished their quality transformation. Implicit in that mantra was the message that workers should be more careful and not make mistakes. The real problems were in the design and manufacturing process itself, which designed in opportunities for error and defects. The response of their workforce (as expressed on the bathroom walls of the plant) was not only cynical and negative, it was unprintable. It took years before the changes were made in design and production that improved the quality of the product.   When the quality battle was won, the values statement about “quality as job #1”was simply unnecessary. The problems with quality were not problems that could be solved with attention to “values.”They had to be solved with engineering.

Values are important, and can be the inspirational focus for a business. They can support a consistent, powerful culture focused and agile enough to take on the competition. The real key is using them as a touchstone for all the decisions, policies and behaviors, to make sure that the values professed are the lived values in action; and not using them in place of fixing what isn’t working.

If you’ think codifying the values of your organization could drive the organizational change you seek please contact Vision & Execution to see how we can ensure you gain the full benefits possible.

Kevin B. Kreitman Ph.D., Master Organizational Mechanic
Vision & Execution Strategic Partner

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Beware stealth mode companies when timing your market entry

Think you have a great idea for a new product? Chances are that someone else has it, too. How do you avoid squandering your market leadership position?

We meet with many entrepreneurs, most of whom think they have the next great invention.   Oftentimes it’s companies outside of the U.S. copying U.S. market leaders but tailoring the idea for their home countries. That’s a great short-term or small business strategy but difficult to expand beyond your borders with a “me too” product unless you’ve found a very successful niche.   Sometimes, a very rare sometimes, it’s really something novel that could be become a global market leader. As you work to come up with a winning concept, it’s good to keep in mind that, if you’re thinking about an idea, someone else is probably also thinking about that same idea.

So, what’s the best approach to get out of the gate before the competition? What mistakes should you avoid as you move strategically toward launching your product? Here are four common mistakes we see many entrepreneurs make on the road to launching:

1)      Not Having a Minimum Viable Product (MVP): Now that you have your idea, how quickly can you develop the minimum viable product to go to market? And when I say “minimum,” I mean a product that values user experience and performs well. If you overlook either of these critical elements, you risk crashing and burning—quickly.  Determining your MVP doesn’t mean you don’t have a product roadmap; it means that you’ve focused on the most critical features to secure demand from your early adopters.

2)      Spinning Your Wheels: If you’re focusing on the minutia instead of focusing on how quickly you can get to market, you need to rethink what you’re doing. In short, this is no time to spin your wheels. Speed matters in today’s lightning-fast marketplace. Don’t worry about incorporating every little feature or new idea that the team brings to the table. There’ll be time for that later, once you have a solidly performing, easy-to-use product to launch.

3)      Lacking Early Market Validation: If you don’t know if anyone will buy your product once you get it to market, we suggest you take a step back. To get validation, talk directly to your target customers. Then, look for experts who target a similar market but aren’t direct competitors. Industry analysts are another excellent source for market validation. They can provide feedback and will usually meet with companies at least once without charging a fee. They talk to companies in your space on a regular basis, as it’s their job to know the landscape. Their feedback can prove invaluable to tweaking your product as your prepare to go to market.

4)      Overlooking Competitors in “Stealth” Mode: While you’re busy getting your product ready to go to market, you need to keep your eyes open for competitors who are on the horizon. Although they may not have launched yet, they’re out there, lurking and ready to pounce on the same customer base you’ve targeted. Don’t make the mistake of keeping your head so far down that you aren’t aware of who else is coming up on your heels that may threaten the success of your business. On the other hand, don’t get so distracted by what perceived competitors may be doing that you fail to focus on what your goals are and your unique selling proposition. Your competitor’s strategy may not be the winning strategy.

Need help getting your product or idea ready to go to market? Contact Vision & Execution today to develop a strategic plan that will help you avoid the pitfalls along the path as you refine your product or service and move toward a successful launch or expansion.