Activist investors were busy in 2017. General Electric, AIG, Arconic, CSX, Pandora, and Buffalo Wild Wings are among the companies whose CEOs resigned under pressure from activist investors. Activist investors single out underperforming companies, then force changes, which may include giving the activist a seat on the board, replacing company leaders, divesting a division, or simply cutting costs.
Have you ever wished for more input, insights, and ideas from the employees on your team?
Especially when our businesses are not performing as well as we’d like, we really need our teammates’ creative ideas. But when we gather a group and ask for ideas—whether for new product features, cost reduction ideas, or ways to improve service—we often see the same, recycled thoughts. Or ones that are only a smidgen better than what’s currently being done.
It’s not the employees’ fault. Humans are wired to keep doing what they’ve been rewarded for in the past. We are wired to protect our allies, and to avoid risk. These tendencies tend to hold us back when it comes to thinking in new ways. We are shackled by what’s worked before and have a hard time imagining a new way of doing things.
Here are a few techniques for helping your team break free to develop new ways of thinking about your business. Continue Reading →
When I was sixteen, I went on a 2-week horseback trip in the Bighorn mountains of Wyoming. Each morning, we were given the coordinates of the location where we would camp that night, then turned loose with a map and compass. It was satisfying to arrive at the destination each night, after navigating our way through the mountains on our own.
Heading a new strategic direction—entering a new market, innovating a new product line, or changing the way we go to market—can feel like heading out into the wilderness. If we think like an explorer would, however, we can find our way to new sources of profit and growth.
Here are four points to keep in mind when navigating new strategic territory:
In the past few years, Cisco, Coca-Cola, GE, IBM, MasterCard and other large companies have begun to launch “internal startups”—teams of employees who are sheltered from corporate rules and bureaucracy – to stimulate entrepreneurship and creativity, and infuse agility.
I spoke recently with the leader of a business that existed – for a while – as an internal startup within a large corporation.
The thinking was that employees within this quasi-startup would be free to focus on their goals. Team spirit and collaboration would replace hierarchy. Innovation, risk-taking, and learning from failure would flourish. Time formerly spent on meetings and emails with other corporate groups would be spent focusing on the customer.
All those good things came true, as long as the team was left alone. Continue Reading →
When you deal with the same types of customers, buying the same products and using them the same way, every day, it’s easy to be lulled into a smug confidence that you know everything you need to know about how customer needs are evolving.
Market research and management reporting systems are notorious for “averaging” all customers together. This blends specific needs into a bland summary of general information. As a result, critical “outlier” information gets lost in the mix, and companies lose out on valuable insights about customer needs.
They focus product and service enhancements on the “average” customer, and as long as she’s pretty happy, they think they’re doing well.
This is dangerous.
When we ignore the unusual customers – the ones at the edges of the bell curve – we miss important market signals.
These “outlier” customers are those who do things a little differently. They may use our product or service in an unusual way, perhaps even in a way that’s never occurred to us.
Why is this important? Continue Reading →
When you want to gain insight into emerging customer needs and behaviors, the first solution you might think of is market research. But research can be costly, and it can take weeks to implement and analyze.
Beyond the cost and time required, there are two big problems with market research. Continue Reading →
Not long ago, I stood on a pier near Cape Canaveral, Florida and watched a SpaceX rocket launch.
People were wearing SpaceX t-shirts and talking excitedly. SpaceX has brought the thrill back into space exploration.
Founder Elon Musk figured that by developing a way to reuse rockets, just like airplanes, he could reduce the cost of travel to space by a factor of a hundred.
He’s well on his way to achieving that. The company created the first commercial spacecraft in history to shuttle cargo to and from the International Space Station, and has already cut the cost of launching into space to less than a tenth of its prior level.
His ultimate goal, however, is to colonize Mars, making human life inter-planetary.
How’s that for a bold vision statement?