Gone fishing…dipping into different business ponds

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got”.

Although that sounds like something David Brent from The Office would say, there’s a lot of truth in it, particularly if you’re talking about improving your competitiveness.

Starting, growing and leading a business is a tough job and it’s so easy to get caught up in the ‘day to day’. The result is often finding yourself being trapped in ‘always doing the same things’ and struggling to find new ways of spotting, generating and developing ideas. The result is ‘getting what you’ve always got’ and a lack of innovation.

Our experience working with winning business leaders is that they take a proactive approach to innovation. In fact, it’s Characteristic number 7 of the ‘7 Characteristics Of Dramatically and Demonstrably Different Businesses’ and it’s all about the successful exploitation of new ideas. But how?

Well, there’s some good news. Research by Harvard Business School highlights five secrets of successful innovators (I’m always nervous about ‘secrets’ – by definition, if they’re reporting them, they’re hardly secrets any more, but anyway, here goes!).

They are, apparently: Associating, Questioning, Observing, Experimenting and Networking. So, what does that mean in the real world? Well, my ‘Yorkshirised’ interpretations are it’s all about ‘Connecting’ things; Asking ‘why?’ ‘what if?’ ‘how?’ etc; Watching others do stuff; Trying things out; and Meeting others.

So, now the secrets are out, what does this mean for you? Maybe you do some, or all of these things, but do you do them in the same environment all the time? My recommendation is try ‘fishing in different ponds’ – that means doing the things above in environments you’re not so familiar with. By doing this, the likelihood is that you’ll not get what you always got.

I was at an event recently hosted by Connect Yorkshire where the speaker was Barnsley’s forthright and forward-thinking leader of the business Webmart, Simon Biltcliffe. He calls himself a Marxist Capitalist (See the first edition of unLTD for an interview with Simon) and his whole approach is, without a doubt, Dramatically and Demonstrably Different and the great thing is that it delivers impressive results.

One of the things that particularly struck me about Simon was his approach to pushing innovation – he calls it his DIY MBA!

He has committed to one half day a week to learning and exploring. That means one half day consciously taking time out and reading books and magazines, browsing websites, listening to podcasts (and yes, I will be sending him my weekly 3D Thoughts podcast!), proactively going out to meet other people and visiting and learning from other businesses.

Our research suggests that 3D Leaders don’t just ‘Think outside the box, they ‘Get out of the box’! They get out there and engage with others outside the comfort zone of their own business and area of expertise. From simply creating time to work with other departments and locations across the business, to fishing in different ponds which means other companies, other industries, even other countries and cultures. As well as doing it themselves, they encourage others to do so, too!

So, what does this mean for you? Well, there is an abundance of ‘ponds’ in the Sheffield City Region – your challenge is to create some time to access and ‘dip in’ to them to increase your learning and knowledge and develop your own DIY MBA!

Go on, you know it makes sense – get your diary out, create an appointment with yourself and start fishing!

To get you started, here are 4 ‘ponds’ that I’d recommend locally…

Connect Yorkshire – www.connectyorkshire.org

Bhayani Law HR Forum – www.bhayanilaw.co.uk/event/hr-exchange-employment-law-update/

SCR Female Entrepreneurs And Directors Monthly Insights – Call Jill White on 0114 243 4666

The Indie Business Fair At The Workstation – www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-indie-business-fair-2-tickets-42047032807 (we’ll be there, as will unLTD!)

Which ponds do you fish in? As this is all about learning, and we can all learn from each other, please do share with us on the unLTD website where we can all dip in!

As Sir Jonathan Ive, the creator of the iPhone said: “The best ideas start as conversations”, so go on…Start creating conversations with others – you never know where they might lead!