Innovation and Dialogue

dialogue innovation

Dialogue

How much of innovation is an Isaac Newton-like moment (mythically alone and the apple drops on your head….”AH-HA!”) and how much is something else entirely?

And what IS that something else?

I wrote another article asking if innovation was dead. Looking at the world around us, it seems a mixed set of answers. Some things like Artificial Intelligence (AI), driverless cars and certain kinds of other technology seem to beg the question that innovation is alive and well. But we still have stubborn problems as a culture and a world that seem to defy innovative answers. Some of these problems are so monumentally complex that just trying to confront or define them is hard enough (think eradication of hard poverty, cures for things like cancer or diabetes, nuclear proliferation, economic inequality, how to have a positive outcome with whatever the heck is happening to global environment, etc….).

Getting to a more manageable level, like your business, how do you:
  • keep from being a follower when it comes to coming up with new and different ways to attract customers
  • improve and create new products and services
  • grow your business in scalable ways
  • stand out from the crowd of competitors
and the like?

Going it alone can seem attractive. It can feel like, unless you come up it, it’s not really your innovation or idea. This is a real danger for solopreneurs, as innovation is not the same as churn, and this churn is where many of us live and work. Surrounded by shifting tasks, fluid schedules, never-ending revisions of services and offerings….it can SEEM like Innovation at times, even if it’s just a new way to get through the day in one piece!

It’s not.

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“Help Me Fix It!”

Help Me

Help Me!

“Can you help me fix it?”

Almost all my initial conversations with customers are summed up in this one heart-felt plea. The long answer is usually, “Yes!”

That’s the long answer…the one that gets backed up by varying degrees of, “But first we need to….” Sometimes that slows down the enthusiasm a bit. They are happy to know that it can be fixed, but put off by the amount of work it will take, the time until the results they are looking for show up, the part of the process and collaboration in which they will need to invest, and the cost, whether it is time, hours of work, or money.

If it was simple and easy, not only would everyone else have done it (“I just want to be able to sell my products and make a really good living.“), but it would likely result in a pretty mediocre solution (“Well, we kind of fixed that problem, but I didn’t realize all the other inter-connected parts to the business and what we’re trying to do…so really, I’m not so sure we fixed much.“) that might actually harm the business.

Here’s an example:

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JULY’s Best – Blogs, Strategy and Design, and Thriving at Work!

July blogs strategy thriving

July is Blooming!

July’s Best brings some familiar themes: blogs, strategy and planning, and making best use of your resources…

Business Blogs

Business Blogs

Blogging for business is hard. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it, right? This article digs into 6 reasons why you should include a blog in your marketing. Take note of the business benefits listed….the effort pays off!

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Collaboration: The Action Side of Conversation

Collaboration

Collaboration

Collaboration is the action-oriented manifestation of dialogue.

I had an online conversation with a colleague during which we each remarked on the current snapshot of busy-ness we have (summer can be notoriously slow, depending on your business…I think the ice cream parlors pick up, but I digress…) and some of the projects we’re working on. Then she offered to “hop on a call” and look at some ways we could collaborate. This caught me by happy surprise, as I’ve never met her face-to-face, since she lives a continent away.

Her suggestion immediately sent my imagination reeling in a kind of high, fuzzy way. By that I mean that I couldn’t think of what such a collaboration might look like immediately, but the chance to take part in it opens up unknown possibilities….which are always exciting! While the possibility may mean work for me that I might not have done otherwise (filling out my “bandwidth” for the week, for sure….) the value of that work would be at the top for me.

Collaboration, as I mentioned earlier, is conversation in action. The shared listening and thoughts, the enlightenment and discovery, the humor and evolution of opinion and points-of-view result in an end-point of sorts that could not have been gotten to any other way.

  • Do you do this in your business?

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WARNING: You’re Losing Money By Not Using Video!

Video is EVERYWHERE!

Video is EVERYWHERE!

Unless you’re completely disconnected, you have watched a video of some kind over the internet…even if it was just a cat. More likely you not only watch them every time you’re online, but also have some kind of streaming service like Netflix or Hulu that you subscribe to so you can watch when you want. The absolute access of video on the internet to our population is staggering.

Now flip that around. As a small-to-medium business owner and entrepreneur, a big pillar of growing your business is, of course, marketing. Digital marketing (which includes social media) is a growing portion of business focus and will only get bigger. It goes without saying that any business that needs to get found by customers (is there a business that DOESN’T need to be found by customers?) has a web site. A significant subset of these businesses have a social media presence of some sort.

How well that aspect of their marketing is working becomes the question to answer…

Quality content drives much of digital marketing success, but without a strategy to reach those markets and customers that want to buy from you, the content may not even seem to exist. These subjects make up a lot of my previous articles, and comprise a large part of what I work with my clients to create and implement.

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ONE THING to Drive Your Business

The One Thing!

The One Thing!

I have written previously about the obsession with THE ONE THING. In the case of my earlier article, it was the THING that you, as a business owner, feel could turn around your business or make a big splash, if you could only get it Just Right. My point in that article is that you need to step back and consider what you’re trying to accomplish, to see if that THING will actually move the needle, or if it is more of a “shiny thing” that you’re chasing, in hopes it will fulfill its perceived promise.

There’s another kind of ONE THING that can have an enormous impact on your business: Clarity of Communication. This breeds and establishes Understanding, which is not the same thing as simply communicating…

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The Integrity and Priorities of Place

The Priority of Place

The Priority of Place

I recently wrote about how the things you actually spend time on uncover your priorities. A colleague of mine noted that what you spend money on does the same thing, which is partially true. There are a number of things you spend money on that are not discretionary, like food (if you are fortunate enough to have the money for food…).

Other interesting indicators of priority are your decisions made in the midst of radical change.

I recently read an article in the Guardian by a professor at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Indiana. I should say ‘former professor’, as the college just closed after operating since 1889. Rensselaer, IN has a population of just under 6,000 souls and is definitely NOT a place you might expect a college to be.  Ranked as a “Best Midwestern College” by the Princeton Review and U.S  News, it nonetheless announced on February 3, 2017 that it will temporarily suspend operations at the end of the 2016-2017 academic year. The article’s author, Jon Nichols, rightly interprets that to mean “Students: transfer now; Faculty & employees: you will need a new job soon.”

Mr. Nichols doesn’t want to move.

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Keeping Up With The Raging Stream of Content

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Raging Stream of Content

A Raging Stream….of Content!

How can you possibly keep up with the constant stream of content you need to publish so you can attract new visitors and satiate the the existing ones? Oh, and it has to be really valuable, interesting, entertaining, and, you hope, draws them to you in a way that leads them to hire you or buy your stuff eventually.

First, have a strategy and plan.

How much content do you actually require to meet your business and marketing goals? That depends…..typical answer, but it’s true. Here are some sample goals you might have:

  • Raise awareness for your business
  • Increase sales or leads
  • Establish and maintain professional credibility with your audience
  • Provide helpful “How-To” content to your audience

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What Are You Really All About?

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blind men and elephant

The blind men and the elephant

Remember the old fable about the blind men and the elephant? Each one of them touched a different part of the animal and conjured up a description of it that was wildly different from the others’, based on their personal experience.

Stay with me….

I have had an experience like this with my business recently. Instead of being blind, though, it’s more like I was up-close-and-personal with my section of the elephant. All I could see clearly was the bit right in front of me. In my desire to really get a good look at where I am and where I’m going, I tried stepping back a bit, but really only got a wider view of the broadside of the elephant, though. I needed to back WAAAAAAAY up to really see it as an elephant….er, as my business.

I am fortunate. I just got back from almost two weeks’ worth of vacation on a lovely tropical island. Lots of beach time, lots of “spare room” for my mind to unwind, and little to no “screen time” to distract me (THAT was nice!). It took most of the vacation for my mind, at all levels, to unwind and back-off enough to not only see the elephant, but discern if this was the elephant I wanted and have been working for / toward for years.

This is humbling, and an eye-opener…

One consideration I confronted was “What do I consider success?” This is a tougher-than-you’d-think question. It is beyond revenue, recognition, client-lists, board and committee memberships, or mission statements. It is “What am I about?” and “Why do I do this…..really?

This requires me to go deeper into my reason for being. If I truly believe the importance of mindfulness and the present moment, this must be reflected by my business. As a consultant (which holds for any small business owner…), I really AM my business. So, again, what am I about?

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Strategy: Is Your Goal a Place or a Direction?

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Strategy

Strategy

You started out putting together something that you could call a Business Plan, right? If you had some help, or needed one to present to the bank or some investors, it was probably pretty detailed and held most everything you hoped to accomplish and how you would get there, all in one hefty document.

Then you launched your business, and got down to the day-to-day of keeping things going and growing.
The months and years flew by. Some products and services took off, and others flopped. You made adjustments, and kept at it. You marketed to your select audience the best you knew how, taking advantage of every free or low-cost method you could find so you could keep costs down. Your strategy, such as it was, was “Keep Things Going!” It worked for awhile…

Now it’s been several months or probably years. You’re working like crazy, but the return has slowed. Even if you’re getting new customers, you’re not getting as many return customers. Your products and services have changed a bit (or a lot..), but not much of the other pieces of the business framework has. You’re still not as profitable as you need to be to REALLY be making a living. You keep looking for things you can alter a bit or tweak to squeeze out more, but you’re running out of options.

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