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Archive for the ‘Business Success’ Category

What if everything you know about creativity and innovation is wrong?  What if incentives can actually hinder innovation?  What if brainstorming is not the best way to generate new ideas?  And most importantly what makes some companies and individuals more innovative than others?

All these questions and more are addressed in David Burkus’ upcoming book: The Myths of Creativity – The Truth About How Innovative Companies and People Generate Great Ideas.

As someone who is passionate about innovation, I believe idea generation and creativity can differentiate good companies from great ones.  Innovation makes common sense to me.  Innovative companies are open to new ideas and continually challenge the status quo, turning their ideas into new successes.  Yet so many companies struggle with the concept of innovation and how to create a culture which successfully fosters creative output.  Given my passion around innovation, I was fortunate to be selected to be a part of the book launch team for The Myths of Creativity, which demystifies the processes which drive innovation.

In the Myths of Creativity, Burkus debunks 10 common innovation myths and describes how companies and individuals can act on the truths behind these myths to increase their creative output.  Myths analyzed include:

  • The Eureka Myth: Creative insights happen in a flash
  • The Expert Myth: Innovative solutions come from highly trained experts
  • The Incentive Myth: The more incentives given, the more innovation can be achieved
  • The Brainstorming Myth: Brainstorming is needed to achieve creative ideas
  • The Mousetrap Myth: If you have a great idea, the world will jump onboard

Interested in learning more about how your company can create an innovative culture where the best ideas, projects, processes and programs can be identified and achieved?  Or how you can become more innovative?  Check out the preview video of the Myths of Creativity below and consider pre-ordering the book on Amazon.

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Times | Flickr - Photo Sharing!It can be argued that businesses were traditionally built to be predictable, consistent and stable. Processes were designed to ensure consistent output and to control employee behavior to produce efficient outcomes. I would argue that in recent years the great recession, technological change and other factors have transformed business as we used to know it, into a more dynamic environment characterized by a faster speed of change than ever seen before.

Here are my 5 success strategies organizations can leverage to survive and thrive in today’s dynamic business environment:

1. Accept that Constant and Fast Change is the New Normal

In recent years the business environment has under gone a transformative shift where a heightened pace of change has become the new normal. As David Burstein author of the Fast Future argues:

The future is coming at us faster and faster, the rate of change is increasing and the amount of change that takes place in a given year is skyrocketing as well. So much change has taken place so fast that our governments, businesses, and other large institutions haven’t always had enough time to fully catch up.”

We are living in a time where anyone has the potential to make an impact. Start-ups can transform technology capabilities and anyone can share a message with the world through social platforms. While change can be daunting, executives need to embrace change and accept that the future is harder to predict than ever before.

2. Leverage the Possibilities of Big Data

Most organizations sit on a mountain of data. Today large, complex data sets can be analyzed to obtain greater business intelligence and statistical information than ever before. This data can be leveraged to improve the customer experience, product/service, logistics, customer segmentation, pricing, customer retention, inventory management and many other factors. David Court, McKinsey Director argues that regardless of whether or not you are a data based company, all businesses can leverage data and analytics to make stronger data-supported predictions and optimize performance by obtaining a broader view of operations. It is important organizations ensure data doesn’t become siloed, so they can fully optimize and take advantage of advanced analytics. Information may not be valuable for long so it’s important businesses exploit it and get utility out of it, to strengthen their competitive position.

3. Constant Innovation

Given the dynamic environment a constant focus on innovation is fundamental. It is important executives recognize that innovations can come from anywhere in the organization. Communication channels need to be open to allow for the free flow of information throughout all levels of the hierarchy. Employees need to be empowered to innovate everyday and share knowledge. To facilitate this change in organizational thinking, employee performance systems will need to be adapted to award innovative thinking as opposed to following corporate created guidelines.

4. Agility

Traditional bureaucratic organizational structures are slow to change and thus not adaptable enough for today’s innovative business environment. Organizations need to be redesigned to be more agile; to adjust in real-time as change occurs.

5. Face Disruption Head On

Almost 50% of the companies in 1999’s FT 500 were no longer in the FT 500 by 2009. It can be argued that while businesses are focused on constant improvement, they don’t always change in the right ways. If we take the case of Tower Records, the former music store peaked and had their most success year ever in 1999. In the years that followed Tower Records continued to improve their operations and efficiency, however they failed to recognize that customer demand could be met better in a new way: through online music; to the detriment of the survival of their business. It is important that companies continually scan the environment in which they operate and constantly research new ways in which they can better meet their customers’ needs.

What other strategies do you think organizations can leverage to survive and thrive in today’s dynamic business environment? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 

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To combat economic pressures as customers increasingly migrate online, retailers continue to look for ways to entice customers to their brick and mortar stores. One such approach has been the rise of in-store dining. Back in the 1900s many U.S. department stores ran restaurants within their department stores, many of which have stood the test of time. With online retail sales expected to increase by 16% by the end of this holiday season, retail locations are looking to add an experience to their physical stores that the online space can’t offer.

Tommy Bahamas is a flagship example of how lucrative in-store dining can be. The tropical shirt retailer’s 14 (and counting) island stores with restaurants generate 2.5 times the sales of their regular retail locations. Furthermore, the company’s restaurants generate approximately 12% of Tommy Bahamas’ total annual revenue of $452 million. In the company’s new fifth avenue store there is a restaurant on one floor and a bar on another, perfect for that shopping break. Also notable is Tommy Bahamas’ focus on quality, delicious offerings, in contrast to the sub-par food court offerings you would find in the average mall. Check out this commercial of their Myrtle Beach in-store restaurant:

The idea here is that the restaurant is an extension of your brand and the quality needs to be consistent with your retail offerings. CEO of Tommy Bahamas, Terry Pillow describes the reaction fellow CEOs have had to their restaurant-retail concept:

“Fellow CEOs are fascinated first of all that we have it and the second thing they’re fascinated about is that we run it ourselves.”

Indeed in the rise of the hybrid restaurant-retail concept, the trend is for the retailer to run their own restaurant, rather than having it as a concession. One of my favorite clothing retailers Urban Outfitters, have followed suit introducing restaurants into their two Terrain branded home and garden stores. These restaurants play on the popularity of farmers’ markets offering locally sourced food, to give customers a different experience and menu depending on the locale. Terrain’s president Wendy McDevitt acknowledges the lure of the retail-restaurant concept:

“The one thing you can’t get in the cyber world is the tactile experience, and that won’t go away. Food is becoming bigger in terms of entertainment value.”

The in-store restaurant concept is also a great way to increase the amount of time each customer spends in the store. McDevitt estimates that if customers typically spend up to 90 minutes browsing, this can double to 3 hours if stop for a glass of wine or lunch.

Other stores increasing their restaurant-retail offerings include Nordstrom, who are adding contemporary diners and espresso bars to their current eatery options and JC Penney who plan to add juice bars and coffee shops to hundreds of their stores over the next few years.

I think the in-store restaurant concept if executed well could be very successful for a number of retailers, but what do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 

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Recently I was fortunate to go to a Women in Technology event, which hosted guest speaker Nora Denzel. Nora Denzel has over twenty years tech experience having previously been a Senior VP for both HP and Intuit. Nora currently serves on three boards and has been named one of the top 25 women engineers (2012) by Business Insider, one of the top 20 CMOs by Exec Rank (2012), one of the Top 20 computer storage movers and shakers and a SJ Business Journal Woman of Vision. As a key speaker at the Women in Technology event she shared 10 things women do to shoot themselves in the foot when it comes to their careers. I related to many of Nora Denzel’s lessons of how to avoid these pitfalls and wanted to share them on my blog, for others to learn from.

1. Control your career PR agent

Nora asserts that every statement we make at work is a press release. When someone compliments you for a great presentation, don’t fall into the trap of pointing out things that could have been done better, as to do so sends the press release “I’m not as competent as you thought”. A far better response when given a compliment is just to say thank you. If you still want to do a post-mortem of all your mistakes save it for a friend or family member or that unfortunate person stuck sitting next to you on a flight.

2. Feel comfortable being uncomfortable

If you have taken on a challenging new role it is normal to be uncomfortable and if you hope to have a challenging career you need to get used to it. A learning curve is at play here and you need to give yourself time to adjust. If after 6 months you still feel uncomfortable, reevaluate at that time if you are in the right position. 

3. Learn how to act

No matter how scared you may feel, learn how to act confident to conquer your fears and appear competent to others. Nora once met NASA astronaut Sally Ride. Sally admitted to having being scared walking into the shuttle about to go into space, yet you would never have known this from watching Sally’s confident demeanor at the time.

4. Attitude is everything

Often we are told that a career path is linear, yet the reality is that career paths often resemble obstacle courses. Having a positive attitude is key to overcoming career challenges and soaring in the face of adversity.

5. Kill Miss Congeniality

At times in the workplace women may be selected for certain gender-specific tasks such as baking a birthday cake. Nora asserts that unless you enjoy such a task don’t take it on. If you do it once you’ll be expected to do it again. Miss Congeniality does not get the corner office.

6. Lighten up and separate

How someone behaves at work may not be a true reflection of who they are as a person. At work everyone plays their role, it’s not personal its just business. Learn to laugh things of and lighten up when you feel insulted.

7. Learn how to ask

Many opportunities are not advertised. Ask questions to achieve your goals. Want to go on an international assignment? Say so to your manager. That way if one were to open up your manager may suggest you, if they already know you’re interested. There is not always a sign up sheet to allow for the most qualified, most suited person to be fairly chosen, so be proactive.

8. Aim high

Where do you want to be ten years from now? Tell your manager(s) your big career goals, to foster a productive career discussion. People tend to be better editors than they are creators and can give you some great advice if you give them some ideas to work with.

9. Embrace criticism

Criticism can be hard to take, often resulting in defensive behaviors, as the recipient feels attacked. Feedback is actually very valuable and necessary in order to grow and develop. To get this feedback you need to view criticism as an area of opportunity. Thank the person giving it so they feel comfortable, then ask clarifying questions to encourage them to fully expand on their thoughts. To solicit feedback when it is not offered consider asking your manager a question such as “how does my performance differ from what is expected at the next level?”

10. Remember what you’re judged on

Results are ultimately what matters most, so always keep the end in mind.

To learn more about Nora Denzel I would actively recommend you visit her website.

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In the last few years the business press has been inundated with stories of business failure. In this post I want to write about a business that has continued to soar in spite of the challenging economic environment: Five Guys.

Five Guys is a fast food franchise restaurant company that focuses on hamburgers and fries. In 2012 the company’s sales are expected to exceed $1 billion and Five Guys was recognized as the fastest growing US restaurant chain by Nation’s Restaurant News. In the past year Five Guys’ sales have grown 31.84% with unit growth of 24.73%. The company now has over 1000 restaurants across the U.S. and Canada with plans to expand overseas to the UK in the upcoming year.

Here are five reasons for Five Guys’ success:

1. Word of Mouth Marketing: There are no Five Guys restaurants in my area yet, however this restaurant has gained a cult following similar to that of In & Out Burger, so it’s hard not to have heard about them. Recently on a trip back from California my husband and I stopped at the one in Roseville a few miles off the freeway, to see what the fuss was all about. Surprisingly it lived up to the hype! Five Guys are a word of mouth phenomenon, having built their brand on customer referrals and media reviews. Even the Kardashians have promoted Five Guys for free! As these tweets show: 

2. Simplicity: Five Guys have a very simple menu, but it is this simplicity that is key to their success, as Inc. columnist Jeff Haden acknowledges:

“They don’t try to be all things to all people, they sell to people who want a great burger. They’ve identified a market big enough that they can do that.”

3. Top Notch Ingredients: Five Guys are focused on offering a quality product made using the best ingredients. Even though this causes high costs and higher than average prices, the great food justifies it and keeps customers coming back. This focus on food quality differentiates Five Guys from many of their fast food competitors and has earned them numerous cuisine awards including Zagat survey appearances every year since 2001.

4. Treat Customers Right: Fast food restaurants are not necessarily known for good service.however Five Guys may be the exception. On entering the Five Guys restaurant in Roseville an employee took the initiative to approach us and ask if we’d been to a Five Guys before. On learning that we hadn’t, the employee took the time to explain how the orders worked, available topping options and portion sizing. Five Guys’ focus on their customers extends to their public acknowledgement that their success is dependent on their patrons. Check out this sign posted in many of their restaurants:

5. Treat Employees Right: Five guys CEO Jerry Murrell, advocates treating both employees and customers’ right. This approach is very reminiscent of the fast food restaurant described in Greg Blencoe’s SuperManager book which I reviewed in a past post. Employees are paid above minimum wage and many of the restaurants offer health insurance to crew members, which is outside the industry norm. Even more surprising the company does little advertising in order to give employees bonuses. 

Five Guys have soared in recent years and time will tell if their success can be sustained. But what do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. And if you haven’t been to Five Guys, visit their website to find your nearest restaurant.

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In this blog I have often written about companies that are struggling to adjust to their changing industry environments.  In this post I wanted to share a couple of ideas on how to tackle a changing industry environment, from a company I recently read about in Fortune magazine: Levenger.

Levenger has traditionally sold products geared towards reading and writing such as desk lamps, pens and notebooks, in addition to being a micro book publisher.  In recent years the rise of tablet computers and other technologies have begun to transform the reading industry beyond recognition.  Cofounder Lori Leveen describes the company’s approach to tackling change head on:

“You can either take things as a challenge or crawl away… We put on our boxing gloves.”

Levenger are addressing their changing market environment by pursuing the following ideas:

Figure out how your products can become like candles:

A long time ago electric light bulbs made candles obsolete.  However, people continue to purchase candles because they like the product.  Levenger consider their changing industry as an opportunity to reinvent the future for pens and notebooks.

Find ways to stay relevant as people transition:

As people are increasingly switching from books to electronic devices, Levenger are continually looking for ways to adapt current products and introduce new ones to meet changing consumer needs.  For example, Levenger recognized that people want to prop up their iPads and in response to this they began stocking a range of products that served this purpose.  The picture on the left is an example of one of their products which is a miniaturized pillow designed to prop up an iPad.  This Thai created product evokes social entrepreneurism as part of its sales are donated to support literacy efforts in Thai villages.  Levenger is also open to listening to consumer ideas of how their products can be improved, as this tweet demonstrates:

Recognize the challenge faced:

Levenger cofounders Lori and Steve Leveen recognize that today’s children are growing up with technology:

“If we don’t get it right in the next 10 years, we may miss the opportunity.”

The company certainly faces an uphill climb, but in recognizing and tackling the challenge there is hope that Levenger can adapt and thrive in years to come.

What do you think of Levenger’s ideas for tackling their changing industry environment?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/deed.en

Virtuo at last year's Las Vegas exhibition

Earlier this month I wrote a post on Megabus, a long distance bus service that had experienced success in the declining transportation industry by rethinking the product and business model. In this post I am going to write about a company called TouchTunes, who have achieved similar success by recreating the old school jukebox.

TouchTunes has created a touch screen broadband connected machine called the Virtuo, which revives the jukebox. The Virtuo was described by a vending machine distributor as being “like an iPad on steroids”.  The machine has more than 20 times the song choice of traditional jukeboxes. In addition it has enhanced search capabilities even enabling customers to search for a song using part of a lyric.

The Virtuo’s operating system OpenStage facilitates the integration of social network sites. The latest Virtuo machines revealed last month contain PhotoBooth (enabling people to take pictures at the jukebox, which they can share on Facebook) and a karaoke service.

There is also a Virtuo app, which can be downloaded to enable customers to make their song requests on their phone without getting up from their seat. Some customers have even been known to queue up their song to time it with their arrival. This video sums up some of Virtuo’s capabilities:

Virtuo machines sell for $5495 and their average weekly income is $320 (almost three times the jukebox industry average of $113 in 2010). Songs typically cost $0.50 and double in price for karaoke.

Over the past 15 years the number of jukebox machines in the U.S. has declined by 40%. Helping to turn around the jukebox industry’s decline, TouchTunes expect to increase their number of machines from 52,000 to 60,000 by the end of the year. If you would like to see and try Virtuo, you can search for your nearest location on the TouchTunes website.

So what do you think? Will TouchTunes revive the jukebox? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 

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