Marketing Moxie: Leading through Innovation
Listen to your stakeholders, search outside of your box, diversify your network, record lessons learned
East African Business Week, by Hope Wilson, Monday, March 24, 2014
Kampala, Uganda – “I work for an international company,” writes a reader in Kampala. “Our corporate executives from America came to visit our offices, and they kept talking about the importance of innovation. They said it is vital to our success. They want us to innovate, but I don’t know how to do this. Can you give me some suggestions for improving my innovation skills?”
Innovation plays a critical role in the success of our companies. Some marketers believe that it is not their responsibility: They believe that the product development department should focus on this area. But innovation is critical to every facet of a business, and marketers should continue to develop this skill set. Today, I’ll share a few tips to help you develop a mindset of innovation.
Listen to Your Stakeholders
A few years ago, I represented an engineering firm that was developing a large project in the western United States for their client. The engineering firm wanted to impress their client with their innovation skills. As a result, they asked me to focus my time and effort with the technical teams, so that we could invent something great.
Instead, I had each of the engineering team leaders coordinate work sessions with their groups, and I took my marketing team into the community to meet with all the project stakeholders. During a two-week timeframe, we met with dozens of individuals, businesses, NGOs, government agencies, and others who were affected by the project.
Following the meetings, my team and I met with each of the engineering task forces, where we explained the issues, concerns and interests of each of our stakeholders. Together, we generated numerous ideas and implemented more than a dozen innovations that resulted in a very positive response from the firm’s client.
Always take time to listen to your stakeholders. Be aware of what they need—even if it’s a need that they don’t recognize yet. Then leverage your team’s ingenuity to find solutions for those needs.
Search Outside of Your Box
As an undergraduate student, I read a book about Leonardo da Vinci. It said that he looked for inspiration from a variety of sources. For example, he did not look only to his fellow painters for inspiration to paint his masterpieces: he studied nature, human anatomy, and other subjects.
After reading that story, I realized that diversification was important to my success as a marketer and business woman. I started reading newspapers from other cities and countries, and magazines that explored everything from biology to automotive mechanics to ballet. I recorded all of the thoughts and ideas that inspired me in a notebook—regardless of how unrelated they seemed.
Over time, I found that inspiration came from the strangest places: I once came up with a marketing campaign strategy for a telecommunications construction project based on an article I had read about otters several years earlier!
Study other industries and subject matters; you never know where inspiration will be waiting for you!
Diversify Your Network
One of the greatest benefits of working in a global economy is the ability to build upon the diversity they contain.
I recently attended a presentation by a team of six people who had been engaged to find a factory in Southeast Asia for a global manufacturing firm. The firm’s preliminary research had not yielded good results, and they didn’t believe that the team would be successful in finding a facility. However, the team exceeded all expectations by finding three factories that met their client’s requirements.
When asked how they had succeeded, the team explained that their diversity was key: Their group had two women and four men, represented five countries from three continents, had six areas of business specialization (one per team member) and had six very diverse personal lifestyles.
“We realized that each of us had a special skill set—based on both our professional experience and our personal backgrounds—that served an important purpose during this project,” the team leader said.
“I realized that, as a white, American Jewish man, I had a skill set that was helpful in some situations, while it was a disadvantage in other situations,” he continued. “In those moments, I had to rely on my colleagues’ unique skills to move the project forward. I learned that we are always stronger when we value our differences and build on them together.”
Enhance your intellectual capital by spending time with people who are different from you in terms of culture, lifestyle, beliefs, education…and watch the amazing ideas that these diverse perspectives inspire!
Record Your “Lessons Learned”
One of my mentors told me that, before bed every night, he writes down two lessons that he has learned during the course of the day.
“It doesn’t matter if you failed or won; it only matters that you learned lessons that you will apply tomorrow,” he said.
Since I adopted this practice, I’ve found that my strategic application of knowledge has increased substantially. If we do not pause to review the events of our lives—and learn from them—we are significantly more likely to repeat them.
However, when we do improve our skills of observation, listening to our customers, appreciating diversity within our teams, and learning from our life events, we are better positioned to innovate solutions that both provide value to our customers and increase profitability for our business.
Hope Wilson, CPSM, is president of Wilson Business Growth Consultants, a firm that provides international business strategy and communications services. Specializing in infrastructure development, Hope has received 12 international awards for her work.
~ Curated by The Marketing Curator and Pass The Idea (www.pass-the-idea.com)