There’s a theory that teams are only good for about four years. Examples? Any band that formed, got signed early but couldn’t produce a second album. Almost every NFL team you want to mention. Premier League managers who get it right for a while but lose the training room. Boxers. Start-ups. After about four years, familiarity develops and causes assumptions to overtake the challenge. Creativity and effectiveness slide.
But companies who get really good, really quickly, can save themselves by introducing new people to the team. There’s a shift in the dynamic and they move on to differently better things.
In business, the timeline can be different. An owner-operator who starts a business is passionate about the mission. There’s no-one to tell them they’re wrong in anything they do, so they get on with it. Mistakes are forgotten and sometimes the business succeeds. Enough do, anyway, to make start-ups want to start up.
With good management, the company grows and investors have their say. The owner-operator loses some of that initial spark of brilliance and gets used to the dividends – and the product range begins to stagnate. From here, it’s a race to the bottom as competition introduces similar services at lower prices.
I don’t want to generalise too widely (if it’s not already too late), but this is a real and observable trend. Seeing the trend (and recognising the risks) is one way to stop becoming another example of what went wrong. In the same way that putting new members into a team works, getting external help to keep you on track and in touch can be a very canny investment. By injecting an ‘ideas catalyst’ now and then, you get a different perspective, you see new options and you can, if you choose your help wisely, begin to see new ways of meeting customer expectation.
And we don’t need to be around forever, like an investor. When we’ve worked with you to develop your new vision, you can let us go. The worst that can happen is that we validate everything you had already planned to do. In itself, that brings huge value – particularly if you have investors to manage.
On the other hand, to keep investors stimulated, you can put more options on the table. Run an innovation process the right way, and you can put more ideas in front of them than they can reasonably refuse. This also has value. It means you’re still looking, still chasing and still planning growth, despite the pressure of meeting their targets.
For all these reasons, a continuously evolving and regularly updated innovation strategy makes sense. Unless you prefer the four year/second album scenario?
Seeing it differently. Future proofing. It’s what we do.