Key learning outcomes:

  • Learn how to avoid the traps that will stop you from moving your business forward.
  • Recognise that technology can create a point of difference for your business.
  • Implement a mindset of continual improvement.
  • Create a work environment that welcomes and nurtures new ideas and innovation.

Article:

“Because we have always done it that way.”

Why are these simple words some of the most potentially dangerous for your business?

For any business operating as it was ten, five, two or even one year ago, it is no longer treading water; it is maintaining its position but going backwards. Advances in technology have meant that unless your business has a culture of learning, innovation and improvement, you are at serious risk of being left behind by your competition.

The following are some of the common reasons and excuses we see when business owners and operators fail to change and move with the times.

Letting perfect get in the way of better

Too often we hear and see businesses not implement change because whatever they are planning and working on is just not quite perfect. It should be recognized that it might never be perfect, but it might still infinitely better than what you have done or are doing now.

It would be wise to take a lesson from today’s technology leaders. Gone are the days when they would design a product, test it for months and then launch it to the world. In today’s fast-moving world, they literally do not have time for that. Nowadays, if you wait too long, there is the danger of the new product being out of date before they launch. Technology leaders work on a premise of continual improvement; they launch and then update and change on the run. This is why if you are an iPhone user, you receive regular updates for your phone operating system. The new phone was not perfect when you bought it; Apple knew it and was already working on the fix. However, that did not stop them launching on time or stop the hundreds of thousands of people lining up at Apple shops all over the world to be the first to have the new version.[wlm_ismember]

It is important to always ask yourself, “Is this change significantly better than what we have?” If it isn’t a significant step forward, then perhaps you do have more work to do. Otherwise, you can proceed with the change with the understanding that some fine-tuning or improvements may be made along the way.

Afraid of technology

We often find businesses that have been established for 20 years or more can have a fear of new technology. There is no doubt we are surrounded by technology today but it is worth thinking about how much progress that has been made in just the last 10 years or so. Think back to the early 2000s and most of us still had to use dial-up connections for the internet. And you might be surprised to hear that the iPhone, the front-runner in smartphone technology, was only launched in 2007!

Understandably, some business owners and employees who have operated successfully for long periods of time without the benefit of technology might find it a little daunting to change from older, manual systems to automated systems.

The key to successful implementation of any new system is to ensure that adequate training is provided to ensure everyone feels comfortable with the system, and it is used to its fullest advantage. We commonly find that because the initial training is inadequate and people learn at different rates, there are inconsistencies in the application and operation of the new system. Ongoing training is necessary if your business will rely heavily on the technology.

One thing we know for sure is that advances in technology are not going to stop; therefore, if a business is to be successful in the longer term, it will need to embrace the technology so it can enjoy the benefits it offers. Use industry forums and networks to ensure you are at the forefront of what is happening in your industry, and take the leap and be an early adopter. Often new technology can give you a jump on your competition and provide you with a competitive advantage.

Don’t know and don’t want to know

How often have you heard someone talking about what a competitor is doing or something that they have seen on the internet or while on holidays, only to have it dismissed in the office with “sounds good, but it will not work for us”? Closed minds can be very damaging for your business.

It is essential to foster a culture of learning and innovation in your business. Here are a few ideas to consider:

Holding on to hierarchy

The most successful businesses today tend to operate with flatter organisational structures. They are lead by people who hold their position of power, not just because they are the boss, but because they inspire those around them to perform at their best. They promote a culture of self-leadership in which people learn what they need to do and are then empowered to perform.

We find that in many businesses that struggle to change and move forward, the leaders and managers have the mindset that they are the bosses, and what they say goes. There tends to be a myriad of rules and regulations, and employees are bound by strict guidelines. In these businesses, we find a low level of employee engagement and higher than average staff turnover levels. We also often find employees using such terminology as “they” rather than “we” when talking about the business.

It is important to understand that to be a great leader, you need to have people who want to follow you. You need to give them something more to work towards than just money. Our article “Theory X and Theory Y” outlines how important it is to understand what motivates people to get up and go to work each day, and how you can use this to grow your business. There are also a number of other articles in the “Leadership” section of the website that will help you to enhance your leadership skills.

Summary

When you move to a business with a culture of learning and continual improvement, you will notice a more positive mindset and energy in your team. People’s ideas will flow and the end result will be higher levels of engagement, productivity and profitability.

It is worth noting, however, that there may be some hiccups along the way. When you are determined to try new things, not everything will go as planned. It is important to make sure that if an employee tries something new and they make a mistake, this is a learning opportunity rather than an opportunity to blame someone. Here are some wise words from Steve Jobs to finish: “Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.”[/wlm_ismember]

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