leadership incorporated blog

October 25, 2010

Making the Leap: 7 steps to create rapid nonlinear growth

Had enough recession? Ready to leap into growth mode? You don’t have to wait for the economy to bestow growth upon you. You can proactively bring it on.

As I’ve worked with people and organizations going through major change for over 5 years, I’ve noticed that  people are seeing the greatest results in the area of non-linear rapid growth.

What do I mean by that? Well, linear growth is the simple, steady continuation of what you’ve already been doing. And you may be able to create growth by simply dialing up your activity in your same areas and with your same clients. But sometimes this isn’t enough. Particularly in a world that is rapidly shifting in many ways, in order to grow we need to innovate, to shift, to become something new, or become a resource to someone new.

I’ve identified some steps that can help you create rapid nonlinear growth whether you are leading a middle-market organization, a smaller entrepreneurial business or simply leading yourself into a new career:

1. Perform a strengths inventory. Put aside what you think you know and do a clean reassessment. Ask  current clients and associates to tell you what you do better than anyone. What problems do you solve best?  What new skills have you developed? What old untapped skills, tools and perspectives might become useful with a fresh coat of paint? Don’t edit at this point. Surface everything you and your team can think of.

2. Identify important need trends in the marketplace. Once you have looked inside, turn your attention outwards. What’s going on out there? Look at your current client base first. Brainstorm. What needs do they have beyond the ones you’re already aware of and serving? Then look to new audiences. Who has needs that might fit your areas of strength? No editing or judging at this point. Get it all down on paper where you can work with it. I  like to scribble it all up on a large piece of butcher block paper affixed to a wall.

3. Find intersections between 1 & 2. Look for themes and new applications. Mix and match. Put on your detached perspective hat, as if you and your organization weren’t the topic. Again, no judging or editing, think up every possible way you might use your identified skills, tools, & perspectives to meet the needs of various audiences.

4. Now, create a specific vision for your growth. Specific is the operative word here. Now is the time for editing & discernment. Don’t worry yet about the how. Focus on the vision itself. What excites you? Where is your biggest possible vision? Who would you be working for/with? What will you be doing for them? What value will you create? What results will you produce? How will you be compensated? Paint a detailed picture of success.

5. Imagine that you have already achieved this picture of success. What will you and your business become once you have realized this vision? Will you be a bigger entity? Who will now be a part of your team? Will you need a bigger space? Will your brand have evolved? Will you have developed new skill sets? What new activities will you be engaged in? What new resources will you have access to? Define your future state as clearly as you possibly can.

6. Prioritize and Plan. Now that you’ve defined the objective, identify the shifts that will make the biggest difference. Also note those that may make no difference at all.  Zoom in on the former. Be creative. Don’t do this alone. Get people you trust to play devil’s advocate, to poke holes in your plans. Keep planning until you have visualized the clearest, shortest and most effective path to your picture of success.

7. Step into the change. Stop thinking that your business will change once growth comes. The secret of creating rapid growth is that if you create the change, the growth will follow. Shift now. Start thinking, acting, talking, being, and making the choices and decisions of that future state right now. And get your team doing the same.

This is not for the faint of heart. To be successful, you have to fully commit to staying on this path even if you get some “nos” early in the game. Remember that successful ventures rarely look exactly as they were envisioned. You’ll need to pay close attention to what’s working and what’s not and be able to balance staying the course with allowing your vision to evolve as you go.

As we approach the beginning of a new year, it may be time to recognize if your efforts at linear growth are actually leading you nowhere. If so, perhaps a little reinvention is exactly what you need to leap into growth.

October 4, 2010

Inspired to Succeed: 6 ways to get your innovation wheels turning

Recently I’ve had the great honor of working with a brilliant client who is the head of R&D in an organization that develops and manufactures medical devices. I’m supporting him in creating a culture of innovation in his company. So I’ve been spending a lot of time reading and thinking about innovation lately.

There are plenty of thought leaders out there who will tell you that innovation has become more essential than ever to the survival of every organization. All you have to do is look at the rate of change happening in virtually every field to know that if you aren’t riding the wave, you will be left behind. People’s needs are changing. Fast. And not only will your current competition be working hard to beat you to the solutions, new businesses will spring up with new ideas as well.

Change is the new status quo and innovation is the vehicle that allows you to ride that change.

Now, when most people talk about innovation they mean changes in their products or services. Innovation can also refer to your methods of delivering that product or service. Or your ways of getting and keeping business. Or the way you approach virtually any aspect of your business model. And innovations can be suggested by or inspired by anyone inside or outside your business…not just the “creative” people.

So the first thing to do to get your innovation wheels turning is open your mind, break through any limiting thoughts and broaden your description of what innovation might mean for you.

By the way, innovation is a relevant concept even if you’re in transition right now. Because the old ways of looking for work don’t work anymore. Those who are open to creating new approaches will prevail. (For more on this, visit http://www.layoffbounceback.com.)

Whether you are a solopreneur, or leading people in a global conglomerate that employs millions, the basic principles for encouraging innovation are the same:

1. Articulate your desire to innovate and your reasons why. Don’t just assume that anyone (including yourself) will automatically shift into a state of innovation without encouragement, reminders or connection to the vision. Put it in writing. Speak it frequently.

2. Create space. Innovation doesn’t like to be crowded. Schedule empty time for yourself and your people to allow the kind of thinking that leads to innovation.

3. Encourage failure. And then drop the word “failure” from your vocabulary. Failure = Learning. Learning leads to new approaches. New approaches lead to…you guessed it.

4. Reward new thinking, whether it moves forward or not. Don’t forget to reward yourself as well as others! Make new thinking synonymous with success and you will have many more new ideas to build success with.

5. Encourage play. Play is critical to innovation. It relaxes the mind and encourages new pathways for thought. Provide yourself and your people with the tools that encourage play. This might look like paper and markers, clay, building blocks. It might also look like a field trip to an art museum or other places where you can be inspired by the ways others have thought outside of their boxes.

Try something new this week and feel free to let me know how it goes.

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