7 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Using innovation to foster business growth takes a considerable amount of skill. Intelligent minds like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk have driven a significant amount of innovation capital throughout Amazon’s, SpaceX‘s and Tesla’s existence.
Forward-thinkers constantly strive to diversify and streamline their products and services. Bezos and Musk are two models of the best of their kind, which show us there’s an effective and precise strategy applicable to all businesses.
According to Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen, over 30,000 new products are marketed and introduced to the world every year, and 95 percent of these products fail, meaning the majority of new founders still have many lessons to learn.
Below are four innovative ways for companies to create and sustain market leadership, as well as understand the formula behind innovation. Once implemented, leaders will be able to withstand the weight that comes with being the driving force behind an innovative venture, all while turning novelties into commodities desired by many.
1. Look before you leap
The task of constantly taking stock of where the market is heading while keeping up with the relentless ever-changing consumer demands can be challenging for business owners. It requires a level of expertise and accuracy that few entrepreneurs reach.
An exemplary model that comes to mind is the venerable and well-established company Informative Research.
Informative Research was founded in 1946 and is a market leader in the innovative technology-solutions sector, offering lenders a wide range of solutions for each step in the loan cycle. The company serves over 3,000 mortgage companies, banks and lenders across the United States.
It’s clear IR has reached the level of expertise and accuracy necessary in order to sustain market leadership because a company that’s been around for 75 years undoubtedly has the staying power to weather the impact of changing market conditions and the ability to adapt accordingly.
IR started out as a research company for the mortgage industry, and by 1973 the company was purchased by the Buckner family, who grew it into a technology and service giant. Chief strategy officer Patrick Buckner has played a crucial role in growing the company into the powerhouse it is today. He’s transformed the trajectory of the business, including acquisition, development and opportunities for expansion. Buckner has over a decade’s experience in the mortgage industry, and according to Harvard Business Review, it takes at least that long to achieve expertise.
Experts are made, not born. To “look before you leap” does not mean simply focusing on the things we already know how to do, but more so focusing on deliberate and specific practices with great precision.
Also, those who take the less comfortable path do so because they understand the importance of the next piece of advice — playing the long game.
2. Create a roadmap and play the long game
Playing the “long game” in business does not simply entail a two-, five-, or ten-year road map. A longer-term strategy in delaying short-term gratification is necessary to ensure success and sustainability over a significant period of time.
This is a powerful business strategy as it benefits from the advantages of taking gradual and continual steps throughout the process. It requires a well-structured roadmap with standardized checkpoints, which allow a business to be clear about how its various roles, tasks and responsibilities all come together — as exhibited with IR.
“Lenders have historically been slow to adopt new technology and that is why it’s up to companies like IR to drive the innovation forward. Most companies in our space do not even know where to start and that is why we are growing nearly 100% year on year,” Buckner says.
Effective road-mapping (while taking into consideration the long-game) has been crucial in illustrating initiatives across various sectors of IR’s business.
Alternatively, those who play the short game in business often end up losing, as they’re competing with millions of others who are also playing the short game. Amazon suffered extreme challenges in the late ’90s and early 2000s, but the company’s ability to play the long game ultimately allowed it to become the online retail giant it is today. It takes vision to make predictive, strategic moves. As Buckner says, “[A major challenge is] having investors see the mortgage technology space for what it is instead of what it used to be. It’s fresh and growing with a lot of innovation happening in AI, ML and Platform Strategy.” Leaders and teams that can think this way are the ones who connect and collaborate with exceptional success.
3. Build an exceptional network
A business’s most valuable assets can be found in its team and network: one that is made up of leaders, builders and marketers. Prospective clients or partners like to ensure your wider team is equipped with a great amount of experience and expertise to successfully execute and lead them to their desired outcome.
Henrik Johansson is the co-founder and CEO of Gembah, a company that helps take a product from concept to market. Intended to empower businesses and product innovation, Gembah understands that it takes an exceptional process to bring to market an exceptional product.
This involves technology, a great product and most of all, a network of experts in each product-development area. Johansson says, “We continually build our global manufacturing network by personally vetting each potential manufacturer to meet our high standards. We travel to each potential factory and meet with the owner and management, speaking their language and ingraining ourselves into their business to understand how they operate.”
Gembah also finds factories with experience manufacturing specific products so they can align their clients with manufacturers with the appropriate talent, tools and machinery, ensuring a quality and streamlined process.
4. Great leaders are decisive
Analysis paralysis is detrimental to productivity. The inherent fear of failure or making a bad decision leads to risk aversion and the inability to move forward in the decision-making process.
Decisions should be action-oriented, fully rationalized and understood. Musk uses a specific 6-step process when making decisions. According to the SpaceX and Tesla founder, “It’s really helpful for figuring out the tricky things.”
Anyone who has been following Musk’s career and life in recent years knows he is anything but conventional. However, the self-made billionaire is respected because he seeks proven, scientific logic to support each of his decisions.
Not only do great leaders cultivate skill in making smart and fast decisions, but they also train and develop effective decision makers. It’s a simple task for leaders to attract top quality talent, but it’s how leaders pass down their abilities and skills, such as decision making, that positively impacts a business’s bottom line.
Using innovation to foster business growth can’t be achieved through creative innovation alone. Whether you’re spearheading a multigenerational company or launching a startup, no one can bring to the table the same unique set of skills and talents as your own team can. Whether it be technology, people or a systemized process, all pieces of the puzzle are vital in contributing to the greater whole.