I'll admit it: my views on innovation strategy have been dramatically shaped by working in a Fortune 500 corporation. The size and scale of opportunities you pursue, even in a company that was not always all that innovative, oriented me to think a big team and significant dollars are vital for real innovation.
Given that, moving to an entrepreneurial environment in 2009 was new territory when it came to learning innovation strategy lessons.
Without a large team and no outside funding, our entrepreneurial innovation strategy involves imagining an idea, starting on it (while also trying to sell and operate the business), and accepting most things will never develop as quickly or completely as in a big corporation.
In the last twenty months, however, it feels more as if what we are doing is truly classically innovative. The thing is, what we’ve done HAS always been about innovating. Maybe it has just taken a few years to get to where some earlier innovations are successful and dependable. Now, we have a base from which to more aggressively implement our innovation strategy.
5 Innovation Strategy Lessons Learned as an Entrepreneur
Reviewing this most recent development phase for The Brainzooming Group, here are five innovation strategy lessons I’ve personally learned:
#1. Start down a path while working on redefining it
We haven't wavered from the initial reason for starting The Brainzooming Group: to take our learnings on simplifying, collaboratively approaching, and speeding up strategic planning to smart organizations wanting to conduct business differently. We have extended our reach into industries, situations, and dimensions we hadn't imagined. Even though we still only sell professional services, training workshops, and speaking, staying true to the original direction facilitated creating enough content to be able to now quickly move into other areas with tremendous ease and speed.
#2. Once there is an early positive indicator, go all out as fast as you can
Without content marketing, I would not have had the guts to become an entrepreneur. Cold calling wasn't my strong suit. Sharing how to improve business strategies and processes was. The positive reaction to Brainzooming content on strategy, branding, and innovation even before the name Brainzooming existed revealed this opportunity. Even though we have enough content to slow our new content creation, we are now developing longer-form eBooks at an unprecedented rate for us in the past twenty months.
#3. Start more things than you can finish in the time you would like to finish them
At one point, I felt compelled to finish most things I started. Now, when it comes to generating new ideas and approaches, I am quite comfortable doing something 25% of the way if that portion can yield bits and pieces that fit into something else that will be more complete. Accepting this is key to launching as many initiatives as we need to launch. I’ve found that if we are strategic, the pieces fit or make sense later at a high rate.
#4. If someone has an intriguing idea, look for how to spin it
We're developing an idea right now for a branding and social content-related offering. It targets market segments we don't currently serve with a delivery model we don't currently use. A year ago, we had no activities going in this direction. The original idea came during a visit to Mess Wright in Dallas. Mess shared how she was using Brainzooming tools in an entrepreneurial setting. A couple of twists and turns later, and we have an entirely new offering that I'm crunching to get going during 2017 (2018 at the latest).
#5. You can only starve yourself from outside interests for so long (but I'm not sure how long that is yet)
Near the start of 2016, major pieces were coming into place to grow The Brainzooming Group more aggressively. Several, however, didn't pan out when expected. In the interim, I decided to kill myself to make as much activity as possible happen as fast as I could. That means many sacrifices. There hasn't been much sleep or fun outside of business since then. We're progressing on other pieces we need (and got a headwind from other unexpected events), but the period of killing myself hasn't ended. My energy has faltered at times. Through God's grace, I think we'll make it through to the other side of this intense period.
The Big Innovation Strategy Lesson
So, yeah, I must admit not every innovation strategy takes a big team and lots of dollars. In the startup world, innovation CAN be about determination, pushing ahead whenever and however you are able, and staying determined even when you would rather sleep. – Mike Brown
Whether spoken or unspoken, organizations can send strong messages saying, “If it isn’t broken, don’t screw around with it” in a variety of ways. Such messages make it clear that good things do not await those pushing for innovation involving any significant level of risk.
This free Brainzooming innovation eBook identifies seven typical business innovation fears. For each fear, we highlight strategy options to mitigate the fears and push forward with innovative strategies. We tackle:
- Whether facts or emotional appeals are ideal to challenge fear of innovation-driven change
- When it is smart to call attention to even bigger fears to motivate progress
- Situations where your best strategy is taking business innovation underground