Innovation-What If

In an announcement about the difficulty of landing auditions for Donald Trumps popular TV show, “The Apprentice,” a radio announcer said, “The best way to get to the top is to cut in line”. The “What If” concept helps you cut in line with its innovative approach to innovative business strategy.

“What If?” is a road map for change that can be pivotal in transforming an ordinary business into an extraordinary business. It is the differentiation factor that can make your organization truly remarkable in the marketplace. This could be the next generation technology or a product that has been long sought by your customers.

But first, you need to look inside yourself and rediscover your “road less traveled.” As you are the champion of this new endeavor, you have an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be pilot, navigator and ground control. You are the pilot that guides, directs and steers the “What If” project. You are the navigator that keeps everything moving in the right direction. Finally, you are ground control that keeps all the pieces working together. This starts with a vision and a focus that paves a new path for you and your company. It is going to take discipline and foresight to introduce new strategies and innovative operating processes. Are you ready to join American Express and Hewlett-Packard in pursuit of your companys “What If” idea? American Express used the concept to lower the cost of operations by looking at every business activity and reinventing each process. Hewlett-Packard (H-P) used the concept in an innovative marketing campaign where the ad asks, “What if we stopped here?” and shows a photo of an early H-P device. These two organizations worked in pursuit of their differentiation factor by pursuing a “what if” initiative for their organizations. Now, it is your turn to do the same for yours.

The first step is a clear commitment to shaping your organization for the future. This includes developing new strategies and innovative operating processes that become the cornerstone of all new initiatives. You will analyze the obstacles that your business is experiencing and find new, innovative, long-term solutions. This is your second chance so make the most of it.

When in doubt, think about the obstacles of building the Grand Canyon Skywalk on the Hualapai Indian land. The Grand Canyon Skywalk is a glass-bottom, steel and glass observation deck that suspends 4,000 feet above the Grand Canyon floor. It was built to attract tourists to boost the economy of the Hualapai tribe. There was real conflict between the younger tribe members and the elders over building the structure on tribal land. In the end as described in the movie Field of Dreams, the tribe members and elders agreed, “if you build it, they will come” and the tribe will prosper. Although there are still problems today, it is a clear example of a successful “What If” initiative.

The second step is to formulate a list of questions whose answers will generate “what if” opportunities for your organization. This is a crucial step in the “what if” process. Each question must be thought provoking enough to generate the level of ideas required. The questions should focus on customers, products, business activities, technology, applications, etc. and generate farsighted innovative ideas.