The Second coming of Business (2)


tony-AjahAdopt Creative- Innovation

To remain competitive in this ever increasingly aggressive business climate, enterprises have to adopt a positive attitude that tilts towards unending business model reinvention and creative innovation. True innovation means demolishing and recreating an entire business concept so that you won’t be limited by your past experience, some of which might not be applicable in the now.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a management expert quipped in one of their books that, ‘Innovation refers to the process of bringing any new, problem-solving idea into use’. The same added, ‘Ideas for reorganising, cutting costs, putting in new budget systems, improving communication,…are also innovations’.  I think that such is essential today. And Barry J. Gibbons added that, ‘Innovation is not just about chips and technology; it’s about being new. New attitudes and behaviour can be as effective in the market place’. And I want to say, all other technical innovations would not operate well with an old attitude. We would have to first alter the orientation of our attitudes. This is very elemental to allow other things to naturally fall in place.

In his book, Leading the Revolution, Gary Hamel taught, ‘Business leaders are increasingly adopting principles of art and design to build their creative and innovative than you would spending time to doing the same old thing the same way with declining results’. When you innovate, you attract more business opportunities and above all, keep navigating in this ever raging business waters.

I have had several business owners invite my team and me to their business place with one bugging question: ‘how do we get back our rhythm? We used to be in business but things have changed. How can you help us?’ Those questions don’t come to me as a surprise. Whenever I look closely to their operations, I’d notice that they never did anything differently from the day they began. It’s even going to be difficult now than things are no longer the way they used to be. And sadly, they may not return to the way they used to be. What we have presently have certainly created a novel business chasm, and it would require a very courageous leap for one to cross it!

Every business owner who cares for the future of his business should know with keen interest when to hang-on a particular practice, and when to leave them and move on, no matter your market position and level of accomplishment. Success, it has been said, always creates new realities and obsoletes the very behaviour that achieved it. Continuity and stability are under-valued in today’s world of business. ‘The world’, Tom Peter once taught, ‘is embroiled in revolution and businesses needed to remake themselves if they were to survive’. Let me also add, it’s not even enough to survive you should also make conscious effort to thrive.

Even if you are clever enough to build a seemingly perfect business the first time, and your product-service is ideal for your customers, your position will eventually erode because the marketplace is not static, and cannot be because of you. The wave of change will also hit your buyers, and that might cause some of them to change their way and manner of doing business with you. This must be kept to heart.

Innovation is often used as a term to mean progressing and adapting to changed conditions. The emphasis here is not just on innovation but on creative innovation. What do I mean by that? The new business climate would certainly place demand on you ingenuity. Creativity is a central language to this new era. Every challenging situation necessitates a creative solution. We should learn how to be creative in our business methods, techniques and approaches. If you have not taken that serious before, it shouldn’t be at this point!

Always have the attitude of improving in whatever you may have done before. See ideas and business activities in a different context, either by recognising their inherent potentials, or by putting known and unconnected ideas together to cook up a masterpiece for better result. I like doing that, and the results have been terrific and fun. Like a colleague put it, find strangeness in the familiar. Look where others don’t. Cross and convert every perceived business divide into a new reality. All truly creative people have something they rebel against. So, do it without minding; all we want to achieve is a better business culture. Be sure of one thing; those who oppose you at first would be the first to tap you at the back later on.

Generating fresh solutions to problems and the ability to create new processes and product-services for a changing market give an establishment its competitive edge, no matter the market disposition. Rather than being reactive, be proactive. Be the one to establish a new business horizon. If others have done it before, we can do it too. It’s our time!

Whenever you are faced with any business change or better still challenge, it behoves on you to change the face of the business.  That is the soul of innovative ‘businessing’.  In other words, face the change, and don’t just change your face. There could be no higher business rule applicable today, except to keep enhancing the value of what you are delivering to your buyers through your product-service without any fear or any reservation.

System without walls

I want to point out here that what necessitated this new business dispensation was crisis, and in the time of crisis, you cannot go ‘by the book’, script, or by the rules. Paul Ardon quipped, ‘If you can’t solve a problem, it’s because you are playing by the rule’. If I may ask, where were those rules before the crisis arose?

Beyond ordinary business rules and methods, is a higher dimension of business that could scarcely be described by any known business text or theory. When the conventional ways are not working right, then we better try new options (whether it’s popular or not). It would be wisdom to acquaint and avail oneself of such helpful ideas that’s over the prevailing circumstances. Even in the most favourable circumstances, it’s advisable that one modifies his or her plans, methods and approaches; complacency could be detrimental to the future of your business.

Bill Gates once made a statement which I want to bring to fore here: ‘One of the lessons from the Darwinian world is the excellence of an organism’s nervous system helps determine its ability to sense change and quickly respond, thereby surviving or even thriving’. I see an organisational system playing the same role that nervous system plays in the lives of an organism. Does it make sense?

Surely, every business needs systems that support its growth. But those systems must be structured in a way that makes them actualise their purpose.  Already, David Allen at a time notified that, ‘The system doesn’t get rid of problems and challenges – it simply let them be noticed much sooner and negotiated with more grace and ease.’ I have personally experienced that. So, be careful of your system. A system that does not serve you should be out rightly discarded!

Sustainable businesses are what they are because of the system that supports their growth. What about when those systems are not delivering to us the desired result? We’d have to recreate and do something differently. We are going to modify our existing systems and remove every wall and every barrier that limit performance, individually or collectively. Whether they are imaginary walls or real walls; none of them should exist! There should a clear access and communication to every person in all levels of an establishment for an effective problem-solving.

Enterprises these days should operate the system that would give room for solution-oriented inputs. How do you know if you have got a reliable one? Here’s Orison Swett Mandem advice: ‘A good system shortens the road to the goal’. We are talking of a better system of daily business operations; one that would simplify our structure, simply our procedure, simply our style of communication within the organisation, and give room for tapping from individual and collective talents for higher results.

Indeed, our businesses should have a functional system and structure, but they must be that which support growth and encourages dynamism. It pisses me off whenever I see business people tied to routine, even when they have nothing to show for it. The hardest part is throwing out old assumptions to make room for new truths. Anything new is a distraction from the normal routine because new things would require commitment of some resources to match, and not many of us want it or are prepared for the occasion. We should possess the readiness to explore and implement new ideas even when it hurts (for tomorrow’s sake).

We have to do the maximum required. To insure that, we’d create the right environment and atmosphere that would be most fair for all of us to put in our best in these demanding times. Anything short of this would introduce harder times for our businesses.

Tony Ajah
Tony Ajah is a Business Growth Strategist, and the Principal Strategist, TA Strategic Solutions, a Lagos-based firm that provides strategic business development services for budding entrepreneurs. His ideas are highly sought after by leading Nigerian print media such as Punch Newspaper, Daily Sun, Effective Managers Series- Daily Independent, Financial Standard, Business Day, M2 weekly, BrandWork Nigeria, BrandCrunch, ReguLetter (an international journal), amongst others. Tony has written hundreds of business articles that have been shared on several media platforms around the world both online and off-line. He is also a seasoned idea strategist, trainer and professional speaker and his voice has been heard in numerous establishments across Nigeria and beyond. Tony has worked closely with some of the brightest minds in the industry. He is a member of several professional organisations within and outside the country, and also an alumnus on Federal University of Technology Owerri.


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