This is the transcript of Episode 1 from a post-pandemic business series requested by a South African radio station. The recording is available here.
In fast-changing times we must become more than creative to keep business going. Business leaders must strike the fine balance between keeping existing customers happy while also reacting to changes in the environment around them.
Being forced to change the way we’ve always done things in business is never easy, but it’s always worth it.
When we look at our businesses differently, we have to start at the basics.
Have a look at the skills, expertise, equipment and inventory you already have.
You might have used it in one way up to now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use it in other ways or for different things!
Some luxury perfume companies have recently turned their production lines to making hand sanitiser, car manufacturers started to make ventilators, and clothing companies started producing face masks. They had the equipment, they just had to figure out what the new customer needs are and how they could use what they already had to serve that need.
They all had to answer two questions: what will people, companies and governments spend money on right now, and how can we use what we already have to make or offer those things.
Imagining how to use things in a different way takes creativity, and it’s hard to be creative when you’re under pressure, so it’s important that you don’t go through this innovation journey alone.
That’s when you call on people outside of your regular circles. Have a chat or a Zoom session and ask people for ideas. Explain to them in very simplistic terms what your skills or equipment can do. The lack of details and their lack of experience doing what you do can make for very interesting ideas! Think about how children draw things or how they play imagination games … they don’t let reality get in their way.
And at this stage of your thinking differently about things that’s exactly what you’re after … just ideas, whether they make sense or not.
The first rule of this type of brainstorming is to just write down all ideas from yourself or others. It is not time yet to decide yes or no or to get into a discussion on why something might not work.
Only once all the ideas are on the table then it is time to filter it through the lens of possibility and current reality.
When you look at each idea think about whether you can already do it or learn to do quickly. If you have employees ask their feedback on the ideas … they might have skills that you didn’t even know about that could turn a seemingly crazy idea into the next best thing.
If you do stumble upon something that sounds as if it is something people will buy right now, and you have the equipment and skills to bring the idea to life, the next thing you need to do is to AS QUICKLY as possible make a rough prototype or create a rough process model and test it.
The new product or new way of doing things doesn’t need to be perfect at the start. If you sit too long on a new idea by trying to make it perfect, others might launch before you do and they will have the benefit of capturing the market attention first.
The new rules of the game are get it out, then make it better, then make it awesome and keep on communicating with your staff and customers throughout the growth process.
You might need to change tack a few times to find something that really works for you. Give every somewhat feasible idea a really good go, and make tweaks as you go along. During the process you might just discover something unexpected and wonderful.
Most important of all when you are forced to look at your business, products or services differently is to remember that accepting change isn't giving up what you worked so hard for; it's signing up for taking the value of the lessons learned into the future.
Success doesn't start with a belief that you can accomplish anything. Success starts with permission. Give yourself permission to let go, to start something new, to change, and to achieve to your fullest potential.