Sales & Marketing, Talent
Eric Hanson, Fuze, innovation, leadership

Leadership Learnings: Innovate or Die

I recently read the book “Ride of a Lifetime” by Bob Iger, and it resonated with me on many levels – especially in terms of valuable leadership lessons. For my second blog post on key takeaways from the book, it’s important to discuss Iger’s take on “innovate or die” (make sure to check out my first post on leading with integrity). Throughout the book, Iger stresses the importance of challenging the status quo and not limiting oneself to repeat what’s worked in the past.

We’ve seen countless examples of this principle over the years. Disney is a prime illustration of a company that redefined itself from a corporation focused on traditional animation to dabbling in live action films, acquiring Pixar and Marvel, and building the Disney theme parks. Apple is another great example, having started out making computers and eventually expanding into the music and phone arenas.

As today’s technology landscape becomes increasingly competitive, the idea of “innovate or die” has never been more critical – and can be applied across various areas of business, from  product innovation and customer experience, to employee experience, and even leadership styles. But successfully evolving and innovating your business is no easy feat.

Here are some key takeaways around innovation from my experiences over the years that help guide me in my work today.

Identify and focus on the white space.

In terms of an innovation strategy, it helps to identify where the white space lies within a market— that space translates to a possibility. There are many products and services that are very generalized, and the way to unlock opportunity for your solution is by specializing in an area that addresses the current unmet needs in a market. A one-size-fits all approach will always leave room for more innovation in its wake, and create opportunities for other companies to adjust and fill those gaps. This is an approach we’ve taken at Fuze, as we’ve recently begun rolling out tailored solutions for different vertical markets to address specialized communications needs across different industries.

Avoid data analysis paralysis.

Make no mistake, data is extremely valuable when it comes to business strategy and decision making, and many organizations are producing and analyzing more data than ever before. However, in many respects, data is a lagging indicator. It’s important to remember that there’s a critical convergence that exists between art and science. If you wait for data to provide the perfect model and strategy, you will likely miss your window of market opportunity. I have found that you must trust your experience, trust your people, and trust the qualitative side of things, and use data to identify emerging trends and help validate all of the above. Remember that people make decisions and data is a tool that helps them target opportunities and mitigate risks.

Don’t be afraid to take risks.

I always go back to what Thomas Edison famously said when he was inventing the light bulb: “I haven’t failed — I’ve just found 10,000 that won’t work.” I’ve learned over the years that it’s ok to take risks and fail sometimes. If you’re not failing, you’re not trying, and if you’re not trying, you’re not innovating— and unlikely to drive progress or growth. As a leader, it’s important to foster an environment where people aren’t penalized for trying different things (to a realistic extent). People need to have that freedom to experiment, be creative and see what works.

Build a strong and agile team.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that unplanned business disruptions can occur at any time. There will likely be others, and how we prepare for them as business leaders is important. In order for organizations to weather these changes and successfully innovate, they must first build a strong team foundation that can be agile and flex with whatever comes their way. Anybody who has ever played a team sport knows that good team chemistry can make the impossible possible. You’re often one day away from the next crisis, bottleneck, or challenge, and the only way you can pull through successfully and maintain business continuity is by coming together as a group and trusting one another to effectively play their role.

The next few months will be critical as organizations continue to navigate rising COVID-19 cases related to the latest variant and what that will mean for their businesses and people. Now more than ever, organizations must be agile and smart in their innovation strategies to remain competitive.


This post was originally published on the Fuze blog.

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