The need for speed
Get creativity into your organisation: change for the quicker – change for customer.
Turning round your business is tougher than for years – customers are more demanding, more cautious, more reactive.
Businesses are under increasing internal pressure from budget cuts, higher expectations (more for less) and increasing uncertainty.
Clients themselves have reduced their own teams and are trying to achieve the same tasks. Time & focus are their most precious resources.
And everything must be delivered more quickly.
Expectations for quality improvements & for better value can increase the pressure for being faster. Businesses rely on quarterly reporting periods to satisfy shareholders & use leadership models that rely on management by objectives to ensure conformity and consistency rather than change. Short cuts and new innovation are stifled by bureaucracy.
In the risk-driven inertia that many businesses are in, decisions take longer and tend to be safe – often familiar and repeated from past. Falling budgets can result in shaving a bit off everything rather than a refocus on doing just one or two things really well. Silos have built up internally, with a sense of protectionism leading to poor internal communications and mistrust. This can be replicated externally with too many agencies focused on their own specific disciplines – with each agency duplicating similar processes in dealing with the client – so adding to further delays. These pressures also sour culture which in turn causes delays and further inertia.
However, quicker is the norm for many businesses and organisations especially those influenced by new technology – where the use of creativity is ingrained in their business models. Fantastic crowd sourced content is uploaded every minute and quickly spread to people who look for their recommendations on social media. Millions of apps and upgrades are beta tested and rolled out every week on technology we already cannot live without. News is delivered 24/7.
If customers are demanding better experiences and best quality on one side of the value equation, price differentials are getting narrower on the other. Price comparison sites and supermarket price wars mean the price isn’t a differentiator but a similarity. Premium prices are harder to justify.
So how can creativity in business be applied to help speed things up, to unleash new initiatives for customers without compromising quality so building trust rather than losing it?
Creativity in its purest sense is forming a new solution from existing elements. Therefore it is always good to start by interrogating exactly what is happening inside the business, breaking it down into small discernable elements and reconfiguring them again into a simplified, customer focused approach. Ask the organisation direct questions (some are illustrated below) to get the answers that bring these elements to light.
The solution will come from being bold in questioning what’s working and why as well as what’s not. Collate the answers into groupings that can be reassembled. Prioritise the answers to ensure they are relevant to each part of business and importantly to each business leader.
- Is everyone in the business clear about what we do & why? Is there clarity and conviction about the purpose of the company?
- Is our own story inside the business as clear as it is when we communicate outside?
- Are we all about the customer or all about ourselves? Do we think inside out or outside in?
- Do we have a dialogue with lots of our customers – daily not annually, sentences not tick-boxes?
- How can we simplify everything…and after ask again, can we simplify further?
- Do we share & train each other in what works?
- Do we regularly work together outside of our own internal teams – on behalf of the customer?
- When we undergo performance reviews for our leadership and staff, are there consistent KPI’s about collaboration & the customer?
By understanding the answers to these types of questions, you can creatively develop new initiatives, new processes & new teams. Restructures don’t necessarily have to mean redundancies – they can mean new responsibilities. By simplifying these processes and ensuring each is strictly evaluated on a customer focused basis, things will get faster. Today, it is cost effective to use real time customer feedback in developing and spreading these initiatives – online dialogue is flexible and rewards the customer who expects their voice to be heard.
Once they do the results on culture will be positive. As a few directions become clear, it will be wise to quickly try out a few small tests – start with manageable, realistic goals, ensure leaders support these teams overtly and that failure is supported as much as success – to ensure a do/learn/do approach to learning is invoked – and when these tests work, roll them out & start a few new initiatives. Taking action quickly via business creativity creates actions that break inertia, break silos and start a road to growth.
So while many companies use creativity to communicate to their customers, they can start to seed creativity into their business structure, planning and processes too – with valuable outcomes such as improving speed to market, rewarding customer experiences and an improved internal culture.