Most of us are funny about change. We desire things to improve, to be different and better, but we want the comfort that comes with predictability, routines and the habits that have served us in the past. Yet the need for change is inevitable. From both a personal and business standpoint the need to stay current, to “sharpen the saw” and to innovate is driven by competition and the increasing sophistication of our customers. Customer needs and habits change for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the volume of information and the ease and pace at which it is available to them.
Dr. George Odiorne wrote “Things that don’t change remain the same. Things that remain the same quickly become obsolete”. He goes on to suggest that if we look at our behavior and our processes that are no longer serving us, no longer making sense in terms of what we need now or what we aspire to next, and speed up this process of obsolescence we become innovative. It’s a matter of leading the marketplace and active process improvement.
These changes or innovations don’t have to be monumental. Simple opportunities for improvement present themselves if we just maintain an open mind. My favorite example is wheels on suitcases. The wheel was invented when? And humankind has been toting around suitcases for how long? Yet it’s only been 20 or 30 years that wheels have become a common fixture on our luggage. If we had done this sooner would it have been a worthwhile innovation?
Some of my favorite examples of ‘slow to innovate’ are in packaging. Some of us remember the old metal quart oil cans. Now who thought these were a good idea? You needed to store a specialty spout that almost always dripped and was quite impractical. Sure it was before the wide use of plastic, but there were many types of containers at the time that had spout-like openings. An old waxed milk carton would have worked better!
Innovations in the way we communicate, seek and use information and enjoy our music are only a few examples of changes that became innovations which increase our productivity and increase profitability, delight us and have made fortunes for those that chose to imagine.
Encourage and empower your people to find innovations that can improve your process and ultimately increase your profitability. Don’t wait until the competition finds a way. Lead the ‘idea marketplace’.