Most companies grow. But few do so in a consistent way. Here are 5 key strategies to fuel growth and innovation.

 

I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about growth, especially if you’re an entrepreneur.

Even Google hears about it a lot. On the day I’m writing this article, there are about 870,000,000 results on growth, and about 79 percent of those (686,000,000 results) are related to business.

I know, it’s rough. But it’s really interesting.

Most companies grow. But few do so in a consistent way. Instead, they serve the market as an early warning sign of a coming crisis, just like a canary in a coal mine.

Those humble canaries in small cages were used to detect toxic gasses before they could hurt the human miners. The last canary was retired in 1986 thanks to modern detectors.

Nowadays, some companies are remembering those canaries. They die while others learn.

So, what’s the solution?

Not to be that humble canary in the coal mine for the market; companies need to care about building a growth engine as early as possible. A successful growth engine that isn’t just spinning a company’s wheels needs some competitive advantages. It will not be simple and straightforward, but the outcome is incredible.

 

Here are five key strategies to fuel growth and innovation.

1. Find The “Jobs to Be Done”

If you are living an entrepreneur’s life, you may use at least two or more productivity applications.

Consider the last time when you purchased a product or subscribed to such applications.

Why did you do that?

You did it simply because you had a job and that product/application helped you fulfill it. Of course, there have been some functional values motivating you to acquire that product/application, but according to a study on innovation by Harvard Business School Professor Clayton M. Christensen, it’s really not about the features, functions, or technologies.

If you deeply think about your purchase decision, you will find that the acquired product/application “solved a problem along with reducing its associated anxiety or addressing your inertia around that job in a specific circumstance.”

Customer decisions deeply depend on emotional and social factors. 

This can’t be easily found, even in a large amount of demographic and psychological data. Focusing on finding correlation-based patterns found by digging through these types of data is no longer enough to discover the reasons behind the customer specific decisions. Nowadays, marketers and also product developers need to deliberate what customers want to fulfill. You need to find the main business you are in. That is what successful companies do, integrating data on what consumers are doing with the knowledge of why they are doing it.

Clayton calls this, customer’s “Jobs to be done.” Find and leverage it as a strategic guide to build a unique experience for customers, something that competitors cannot easily copy.

 

2. Focus on Customer Experience

Customer experience is the sum of all interactions a customer has with a company over their relationship. It is about all possible combination of values a product or service could deliver, including emotional and functional.

It is essential that companies create an exceptional set of experiences along with their products/services.

Indeed, it is time to measure “share of experience” in addition to “share of wallet.” 

Optimizing individual touchpoints is no longer enough in the age of experience. Companies need to dive deeper to set themselves apart from their competitors. Today’s leading companies increasingly focus on journeys – end-to-end journeys – instead of touchpoints and align processes to support customer journeys, not just touchpoints.

They try to improve the overall interactions with the customer, the cumulative experiences.

Improving customer experience is the less expensive way not only to reduce the churn and cost but also to build a unique competitive advantage in today’s always-on markets.

Let’s look at Airbnb through the lens of the theory of “Jobs to be done.” To create an exceptional customer experience — inspired by the story of why and how Walt Disney created the Snow White film — they storyboarded all of the possible scenarios of the entire journey of a host and a guest on Airbnb. Airbnb used these storyboards as a strategic guide for all of its marketing, advertising, and even customer service decisions.

You can also use a more structured approach to delivering better customer experiences if you have diverse segments of services/products and customers. Building cross-functional teams to identify key journeys and modifying and redesigning processes to support or reinvent key customer journeys are the main steps for creating or improving customer experiences.

 

3. Organize to Be Agile

Costumers expect their favorite brands to be consistent.

However, consistency is a very different concept in customers’ vs. companies’ eyes. Customers expect companies to be consistent in innovation and product/service improvement. Providing such a consistency requires companies to be more and more dynamic. That means they should continuously listen to customers’ conversations and engage with them, monitor the unpredictable markets, emerging trends, and technologies, and adapt and change accordingly. Indeed, they need to be agile.

The point is that agility is about both speed and stability simultaneously.

Today’s companies need to be fast and flexible, but according to Mckinsey’s research, leading companies are also stable and focused simultaneously; in other words, speed must be balanced with stability. To be so, companies should have a reliable backbone (resource distribution, decision making, key processes) with some dynamic and adaptive elements at the top, just like a smartphone with reliable hardware and operating system, and easy plug and play applications.

 

4. Create an Effective Teamwork Culture 

Most of the work, innovation, and production done at any organization are done by teams.

It turns out that what really matters is less about who is on the team – a genius, more introverts or extroverts, a smart leader — and more about how the team works together. 

That is what Googlethe best company to work for – found after years of research on its own data. Research results emphasize the importance of several cultural team dynamics. Managers should ensure a safe environment in a way that teammates confidently express their feelings and ideas. Team members clearly see that their work matters for the team and also the organization. Such an environment encourages a risk-taking and innovative culture, and people work happily. The Harvard Business Review reveals that happy people are more productive and creative.

 

5. Build a Sustainable Growth Engine 

A conventional engine is a machine designed to consume fuel, e.g., electricity or gas, and produce some sort of mechanical energy, e.g., motion. It just needs fuel to produce energy continuously. Similarly, sustainable growth does not come from individual opportunities.

There should be systematic processes, in other words, an engine to support a consistent growth. 

There is no doubt that the most important ingredient to fuel a growth engine is innovation. Innovation (not necessary disruptive) comes with adding new values, services, and touchpoints; improving processes in marketing, distribution, or production; introducing new products; etc. Clayton M. Christensen, who introduced theories of “disruptive innovation” and “jobs to be done” suggests following elements build a robust growth engine: “1) start before they need to; 2) appoint a single senior manager to oversee the allocation of resources between sustaining and disruptive projects; 3) create a team of movers and shapers to work on those projects; and 4) train the troops to spot disruptive ideas.”

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