Last Wednesday, in a suburban New Jersey warehouse converted into conference space and a cooking show set, I joined 80 managers assembled to discuss their company’s strategy. We had helped design the two-day experience and were at the point in the flow of the off-site when we hoped we would hear some new, breakthrough insights.
The echoes of this great marble hall always bring me back to college. I’m sitting in the Philadelphia 30th Street Station, awaiting my Amtrak train to take me home, circled by ornate pillars and homeward-bound revelries on a Friday afternoon.
What an energizing whirlwind two weeks: keynoted for the Federal Reserve (the future of banking), spoke to CFOs in San Diego (the future of finance), facilitated our Outthinker Chief Strategy Officer roundtable in New York (the future of strategy), met with ABC TV in LA (the future of television), ran a workshop for a Fortune 500 real estate firm (the future of real estate), ran an Outthinker workshop for an apparel retail leader (the future of retail), then addressed a room of board members of public tech companies in Silicon Valley (the future of everything!).
The anger that fuels my mission today surges from a speech I heard a year ago, in Las Vegas, in a packed conference hall. The keynote speaker opened with the line: “I have come to believe that large organizations cannot innovate. They produce ‘innovation antibodies’ that attack new ideas.”
You have an idea that will generate new profits for your company and make you even more of a hero. You can already feel the pats on your back and the industry keynote speech you will deliver, humbly explaining how you did it.
The world seems to have suddenly discovered a nirvana of agile prototyping. Some call it lean or lean start-up, some use human-centered design or design thinking, and you may even hear reference to agile or scrum. Whatever the name, the core message is the same: stop trying to build an idea (a business plan, product, marketing message) to perfection. Instead, conduct small experiments with your stakeholders to learn and improve.
It may sound boring, operational, and tactical, but your distribution plan is perhaps your greatest opportunity to magnify the potential of your business. If strategy is the answer to who, what, and how, we spend too much time debating our “who” and “what,” and we give the “how” insufficient credit.
Serial entrepreneur Bernee Strom has built a career thinking ahead in fast-moving markets, from electronics to television. She has served or is serving on the boards of companies like Benchmark Electronics, Hughes Electronics/ DirectTV, and Polaroid and is now the Chairman & CEO of WebTuner (www.webtuner.tv), a company that may transform how we access TV. So when we got chance to ask her how she does it, we jumped. Here is what she she had to say.
Call me crazy for asking, but is business model innovation really anything new? Hasn’t it always been that those willing to explore creative ways to create and collect value amassed more wealth than those who stuck to the obvious?