Innovate your way out of trouble

Some more thoughts from my mate Andrew at GIN...

At times of financial turmoil the temptation is to metaphorically batten down the hatches and wait for the storm to pass. Cut costs, cut jobs – if it moves (and even if it doesn’t), cut it. The problem is that everyone else is doing the same and you run out of things to cut – unless it is your own throat.Lord Leverhume (Unilever) famously said, "We have no money, we will have to think". But thinking without action is just hallucination, so we need to get used to the idea of doing something positively different.

When Mazda was in trouble in Japan, it came up with a radical solution. Instead of laying off workers on the production line, they sent them out literally selling cars door to door. In the 1960’s the slogan for Packard was "Ask a man who bought one"; well how about asking a man who built one?So here’s a plan for success as the crunch continues – innovate your way out of trouble.Anatomise the business; don’t just ask how could we make it cheaper, but how could we make it better?Have a multi-disciplinary internal innovation team. People often look at their own areas and see no new solutions, where someone new to it will say – "Why don’t we try x?" Think about what’s going on in people’s heads. Read every newspaper and magazine you can lay your hands on and ask yourself what trends are developing that could positively impact on your business and how could they be harnessed to your benefit.

For example, while most people are tightening their belts, existing trends will be intensifying – affordable luxuries and little treats, are just two. How could you capitalise on things like this?Find "buddy companies" and suggest collaboration – just as two heads are better than one, so two organisations can work together for mutual advantage. Most companies are risk averse in their thinking and decision making. Without betting the farm, follow instincts and hunches, but do it sooner rather than later.Plan ahead.

If the current economic situation continues we’ve all had it. So assume it won’t. When the upturn begins have your innovation strategy and new ideas in place.Above all, be placed to get out of the blocks faster than the competition.

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