April 12, 2013
How To Catch The Innovation Wave

In this economy, an insatiable curiosity is a major asset. A “can’t sit still” personality is a plus. As CEO, your role is to consistently question what you do and what you offer, and use that information to dig deeper to identify ways to make it better, take it up a notch, and improve the efficiency of your company and the customer experience.

Just because it was a hot seller last year, does not mean it is right for your customers today. You need be taking a perpetual inventory of your business, your processes, your customers and your competition, and really question what is working in your company and what is not. 

Use the ebb to increase the flow.

It may be helpful to think of the changes you are going to encounter as though they were waves and you are a surfer riding them. Just like a surfer, you don’t get to choose the waves, how big they are or even when they will come. You have to look for them, prepare for them, and then be open to riding them to wherever they are going to take you. Resist a wave and it will clobber you.

When a change is coming in, you will be riding one wave after another on your virtual surfboard, sometimes making decisions on the fly on the best way to keep your business afloat. The waves may pick up suddenly or you may be able to see them breaking from a mile away. Your advantage is that you know and are prepared that the waves will come, even if you don’t know when they will come or how large they will be. Just as waves ebb and flow, changes will come and go. Be sure to use the calmer times to focus on improving procedures or fine tune operations. Learn what you can from past mistakes and successes.

A little preparation combined with knowledge can ensure that the wave takes you on an amazing ride. You may feel a sense of anticipation, unbalance and even a little bit of fear. The experience may be challenging, but it will likely be exhilarating too. And that is the way to embrace change so that you benefit from the experience. No two waves are the same, but riding them out and adapting to their differences will make you an expert surfer in no time.

Stand on your own two feet.

It can be tempting to try to chase a particular wave and implement strategies that you’ve seen are successful for your competition. This may seem like a safer way to do business, but it’s not. Playing catch-up and following others’ paths can be a recipe for disaster. The best way for you to be a leader in your niche market is for you to work with your team and your experts to decide where, when and how to innovate.

You should still keep an eye on what is working well for your competitors, but your top priority should be keeping your fingers on the pulse of the developing issues of your existing customers and their external environment.

Your best source of information lies in understanding your customers and clients. Copying something that a competitor is doing well will rarely pull any of their customers towards you, but it might divert your energy from meeting the needs of your previously established clients.

If you maintain good relationships, strong and proactive contact with your clients, and you’re really listening, you will be able to anticipate ways in which your company can provide for its future business needs. You’ll discover ways to innovate and to change; you will make strong, well-educated decisions that will mitigate the risk you feel at trying something new. As long as you continue to provide your customers with the types of products and services to meet their evolving desires, you will be well positioned for continued business success.

You need to be open, shed your ego and let go of ideas and opinions of only doing it “your” way. Feeding your curiosity with continuous learning will put you on a path to becoming a leader in this new world. The better informed you are, the more you listen to your customers, the more open you will be to recognizing and implementing new and innovative ideas.

Shaking it up is the name of the game in this economy. Who knows what the landscape will look like a year from now? But the one thing you do know for sure is that if you stand still you will be in for a serious struggle. So just get on board and embrace this new reality. After all what do you have to lose? You just might learn to find the comfort in chaos.

Meridith Elliott Powell
Meridith Elliott Powell is an international speaker, certified coach and strategist who helps businesses and people master the relational skills needed to be successful in today’s competitive environment. She is the author of three books including the recently published Winning in the Trust & Value Economy (Global Professional Publishing, 2013). Meridith hosts the Secrets to Success Podcast on the award-winning, international Ambitious Entrepreneur podcast network and is a featured writer for SOLDLAB magazine, ReCharge! magazine and the Women’s Advisors Forum. For more information, visit