3 Questions that Drive Innovation

Innovation is the “process of improvement by transforming a future vision into today’s reality”.

A great example is what Apple did with ear phones with the roll out of the iPhone 7.

The iPhone 7’s most controversial innovation was the wireless headphones known as AirPods.  It became controversial when Apple announced this particular innovation called for the removal of the headphone jack making it difficult to use the traditional wired headphones.

Despite initial concerns, the AirPods have set the record for the highest customer satisfaction rating of any Apple product release to date.  In fact, 98% of purchasers say they are satisfied or highly satisfied with the product.  (To put this into perspective, the original iPhone had a 92% satisfaction rating when introduced in 2007.)

No doubt, innovation is a risk.  But Apple has long set the standard for continuous innovation.  Their reward… an $800 billion market cap and recognition as the most valuable company in the world.

How do they do it?

They have created an innovation mindset in their culture.

We were provided with a peak into this mindset in 2007.  The iPod had transformed Apple and, at the time, accounted for more than 50% of their revenue and 40% of their profit margins.  Yet when Apple’s CEO, Steve Jobs, was asked, “what if the iPhone cannibalizes sales of the iPod,” he answered defiantly, “either we cannibalize our sales or we run the risk that someone else will.”

Do you think that mindset helped the iPhone team overcome the fear of failure and the challenges associated with rolling out the AirPods nine years later?  You bet it did.

How can you create a culture of innovation in your organization?

The following three questions will help.

What is your Purpose?

The great Peter Drucker liked to ask his clients, “What business are you in?  What business are you really in?”

Recently I was at a restaurant called Bowl & Barrel in Dallas, Texas, to meet a colleague for a beer before a dinner meeting.  I value punctuality and believe if you are on time you are late.

My colleague was late, and I was ticked.  The manager must have noticed that I was not very happy because he walked over and offered to buy me a beer.   It was the first time in my life that a manager at a restaurant had ever asked to buy me a beer. “Of course,” I replied.

Six months later I am listening to the CEO Spotlight podcast.  The host, David Johnson, was interviewing Kyle Noonan, the founder of FreeRange Concepts, which owns Bowl & Barrel.

David is asking him how they are generating growth when most restaurants are not.  Kyle responds, “I believe it’s because we have a purpose to create remarkable memories that we all rally behind.

When David probed Kyle to tell him more about the menu and business model, Kyle stopped him and said, “We do not look at ourselves as a restaurant or entertainment company.  We view ourselves as being in the business of creating remarkable memories…we just happen to own some restaurants and entertainment venues.”

In that moment I said to myself, “that is why that manager bought me a beer.”

While many people believe FreeRange Concepts is in the restaurant business, they are successful because they know they are in the business of creating remarkable memories.

What business are you in?  What business are you really in?

Focus on this question with your team and see what new insights unfold that inspire innovation.

[bctt tweet=”The riches are in the niches.” username=”markatrisepg”]

What do your clients value most?

The features of your product are important.  It is important that you deliver on the expectations you set in the marketplace.  However, loyalty over the long haul is built when you go beyond product expectations and meet the emotional and altruistic needs of your clients.

When Steve Jobs came back to Apple, they were teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. Brochures and products were strewn across the conference room as Apple’s leadership team was brainstorming what each of their products could do and how they should be marketed.

Steve called a halt to the meeting. He said, “Apple is not about what computers can do.  Apple is about what creative people can do with computers. Apple is about serving people who want to use computers to change the world.

Steve moved the focus from features and benefits to the altruistic need of changing the world.  Movements are created when a population feels they are a part of something bigger than themselves.

Imagine the shift in innovation if you move from, “we provide a service” to “we give our clients confidence” or “we empower our clients to reach their full potential” or “we empower our clients to change the world.”

This shift in focus is valuable whether you are leading a company, a department or yourself.

Most people work hard to climb the corporate ladder or start a company so they can have more time, make more money, and can give to causes important to them.  How can you help your clients achieve what is most important to them?

What do you do better than others?

What are the unique strengths of your organization?  Organizations that innovate leverage their strengths to push the barriers of their comfort zone.  You may have more success with this question if you think about it in the context of your target market.  After all, the riches are in the niches.  What segment of the market most values what you value?

Apple’s initial success was derived by focusing on “the crazy ones.”  This was a segment of the population who Steve Jobs believed were defying the status quo.  At the time, IBM and Microsoft controlled the status quo.  Apple was looking for a niche to help them gain momentum and create die-hard fans.

This niche valued what Apple did best, which was creating products that allowed people to be creative and innovative.  By focusing on their core strengths in a niche that valued their strengths, Apple created momentum which ultimately allowed them to take more risk with innovation.

Summary

These three questions can help you become more intentional about creating a culture of innovation. Challenge your organization to explore your purpose, learn more about your target market and to learn more about your strengths.  Doing so will build the confidence necessary to be even more intentional about innovating.

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