Organizations spend significant money on marketing to get their products, offerings, and stories into the hands of a potential buyer. As business leaders, we sit in meetings talking about differentiators from the perspective of how to market. As most businesses walk through the process of determining their differentiators, almost every time, “our people” is thrown out as a differentiator. While this is very true, organizations rarely provide a mechanism for their employees to provide input outside of the day-to-day. If your people are your differentiators, give them room and let them differentiate!
For a business to distinguish itself, or even disrupt an industry, it needs to incorporate an entirely different level of thinking. If Uber thought, “hey, let’s stay with the traditional model but go with pink cabs,” it may have received attention but wouldn’t have been a significant differentiator. Instead, having no background in the industry allowed Uber to get way outside the box and disrupt an entire industry. This is the out-of-the-box thinking that begins with a clean slate.
One of the best ways to innovate and differentiate is to unleash your team’s inner superhero! When we think back to our childhoods, we may have built tents in our living rooms or jumped our bikes off the neighborhood curbs. Reminiscing, those eight-inch curbs seemed like mountains. Those queen-sized comforters comprising the roof of our living room fort seemed like an Indiana Jones-style temple! Our imagination allowed us to be superheroes and accomplish anything we set our minds to.
Dreaming is Encouraged and Preferred – From your onboarding process through your exiting process, provide easy and meaningful ways for employees to articulate their visions and desires. When confronted with a problem, always ask, “forget what you know about our business, in a perfect world, what would your solution be to this challenge?”
Your employees working the front lines of the business usually have great ideas to solve problems; especially those issues that impact their days, and your customers! I have never heard a customer care representative say that they enjoy not solving customer problems. To the contrary, they often brainstorm creative ways they could improve customer satisfaction. Leverage these ideas and make everyone’s life better. This might not be the disruption, but it will become a differentiator.
Forget the Assumptions, Including Money – One of the reasons we are so creative as children is that constraints are of no concern. When strategizing as a team, forget about the assumed limitations. It is natural to talk about solutions under the pretense of time, money, and risk. Constraints are the proverbial box that will hinder the inspiration required to truly differentiate. Only when you remove the assumptions can you dream!
I am not suggesting you climb a tree and use a garbage bag as a parachute. Been there! However, you should encourage your employees to dream and provide meaningful ways for them to provide input.
To quote PT Barnum, “No one ever made a difference by being like everyone else.”