Connect those lightbulb moments
IN BUSINESS, entrepreneurs are always looking to succeed, become market leaders and continue to advance. However, those who are really successful usually take calculated risks and make bold moves — some actions will work initially while others become failures. For entrepreneurs, the key to success is how quickly failure is converted into learning and, ultimately, into lasting changes in behaviour.
As Sochiro Honda, founder of the car firm, said: “Success is 99 per cent failure”. Often, we end up learning more from our failures than our successes and these mistakes bring knowledge and experience to your team.
Such is the case with Thomas Edison, whose most memorable invention was the light bulb: it reportedly took him 1,000 tries before he developed a successful prototype.
“How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” a journalist asked.
“I didn’t fail 1,000 times,” Edison responded. “The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”
In a global market, however, where competition is rife, every business must stand out from the rest. To retain a unique market position, each must continue to innovate.
In real terms, innovation comes down to implementing new ideas, the creation of new exciting products or investing in improving existing services to help position the business as a market leader, of which both customers and competitors should take notice.
Failure is a necessary part of the innovation process because from failure come learning, iteration, adaptation and the building of new conceptual and physical models through this iterative learning process. Innovation, however, can be implemented in a structured and secure manner, rather than running around blind in the wild.
If there is no structure, even the most experienced entrepreneurs can end up losing focus from their core business. To avoid this trap, devise and follow an innovation strategy. A clear strategy ensures there is a coherent pathway aimed at achieving a specific competitive goal. A framework also prompts us to ask tough questions from the very start. And it is an effective way of ensuring any new enterprises you do undertake are not rehashing the same boring old mistakes. Original mistakes are ones that teach you something and bring a new factor into the equation.
To create the right strategy, it is crucial to understand your core objective. Without defined goals, your business journey will be a bumpy ride with lots of wrong turns, wasted effort and missed opportunities, the net result being a negative impact on profits and business growth. Goals should be SMART — Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic and Time-specific. Remember not to let your carefully crafted goals sit gathering dust. Keep them at the forefront of everything you do and use them to guide the marketing decisions you make.
Take Steve Jobs as an example. In 1985, after Apple discontinued its poorly-selling Lisa computer and faced plummeting Macintosh sales, Jobs was ousted from the company he started from his own garage.
During Jobs’s absence from Apple, Macintosh sales continued to struggle as competitive products from Microsoft began crowding the personal computing space.
By 1997, though, Jobs was back at Apple and picking up the mess as the company was months away from disaster. He turned the company’s focus to innovating great products, recognised the need for innovation and this time the way he innovated was strategic.
By 2012, after inventing the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad, Apple became the most valuable company on the planet.
Innovation is fundamental to any business but the key to its success is having a strategy that sticks closely to your core values and objectives.
It is natural to face unexpected obstacles along the journey. However, do not view any failures as unpassable obstacles; these obstructions are merely stepping stones to achieving success in your industry.
Shraga Zaltzman is chief executive of business and work specialist Work Avenue, theworkavenue.org.uk