Getting the small things right is a first step towards innovation

Nobody likes to be rejected. But, there are times when you know you’ve provided value by facilitating clarity. This happened to me recently…

Last week I had a meeting with a very public mexican CEO, where we talked about innovation and its various forms. He clearly wants to innovate in various areas, but was honest in expressing his understanding that his company is not prepared to do so.

Without getting into details, if the small things can’t get done consistently, then why bother with the exciting stuff of innovation. Basically, there isn’t a culture of constant improvement. And if it happens at all, it is because it is forced upon them. This is not surprising at all, what is surprising is a CEO who is honest about it.

There are many businesses and enterprises who have yet to embrace social media (much less innovation) as a capability. Why? Sometimes it is not because they don’t want to, but because they are not prepared to. This, of course, is a strong resistor to adoption.

The small things matter

Now, you might argue, one is never really prepared. And that might be so, but tell that to a CEO of a conservative company and he’ll reject you in an instant. We must also remember that as much talk there is about innovation, most companies are not innovative. No matter your definition. They are not.

They are risk averse to the T, especially if they’ve been successful at some point. Just like the example company above, most improve because events force them to. Not because they want to.

Being messy with no focus on improvement is the same as being messy.

So, what are the small things? It can be anything as simple as how you treat customers, how you respond to emails/inquiries, how you say hello, how employees communicate what your company is about, etc.

Put simply, if your employees don’t know what your company does and why it does it, you are not going to innovate.

What is funny about situations like these, is that the business operation might be running smoothly, until it doesn’t because the small things are not taken care of. This is a management and leadership issue. And I’m not exaggerating when I say that it is an issue that’s present in every type of organization.

Last week I wrote that strategy is hard, innovation is harder. So, you can’t get to innovation if strategy (the big and small things) is not clear. Business leadership is effective when people know why their work connects to the organization’s strategy.

With that said, ask yourself this: does everyone in the organization understand our strategy?

If the answer is no, it’s time for reflection.

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