What A Caterpillar Can Teach You About Growing Your Business

Master Near Constant Change

 

Many people think that businesses should develop a strategy and stick to it at all costs.

But Sid Mohasseb, serial entrepreneur, investor, venture capitalist, and former the Head of Strategic Innovation for KPMG’s Strategy Practice teaches an entirely different approach: It’s the ability to adjust your strategy, almost constantly, that brings success. The environment is uncertain and changing, and changing with it is vital.

Sid teaches that we must push for more and evolve from one approach to another.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with him about his new book, The Caterpillar’s Edge: Evolve, Evolve Again, and Thrive in Business.

 

Prepare for Constant Flux

Why a caterpillar?

The caterpillar evolves many times over before it becomes a butterfly. It changes form until it turns into a completely different species. The caterpillar teaches us the wisdom of constant and incremental evolution and offers the promise of flying.  To compete, to advance and to win, in our businesses and in our personal lives, we must evolve constantly and purposefully, always.

 

“Things do not change. We change.” -Henry David Thoreau

 

How is the game changing? And how do leaders prepare for the constant flux?

Innovation is constantly approaching from every corner of the world. The speed of change fueled by unprecedented technological advancements and constantly increasing customer expectations are challenging companies to “stay relevant” – competitive advantages are temporary. The game has changed from, “How do I gain an advantage and defend it?” to “How do I change to stay relevant?”

To win in a state of constant flux, leaders must shift their minds and change their actions. First, by realizing their addictions (old assumptions, orthodoxies, biases, etc.). Next, by aligning with uncertainty – no plans can be permanent and no decisions are certain. Leaders must learn to live with probability and a portfolio of related plans – always ready to take the path that offers the most likelihood of success. They should also appreciate the reality of their capabilities and aim to build the future in increments; success cycles must be shorter and capabilities (people & systems) have to be created accordingly. Last, leaders must constantly look for the next advantage and aspire for more “Aha’s.” They should look for and discover the next challenge or opportunity, always; innovate, always (create new value), and evolve, always.

 

“To win in a state of constant flux, leaders must shift their minds and actions.” -Sid Mohasseb

 

How to Embrace Change

Why do we so often refuse to deal with change and uncertainty?caterpillar-cover

The refusal is more natural than intentional. We refuse to deal with change because of our fears of unknown (what is on the other side of change) and comfort with the status quo (comfortable routines we are used to and have served us well in the past). Most people embrace change when they i) realize the severity of the problem they face and ii) gain trust that what they can change to is a better state. We often refuse to change because we believe that the status quo does not present a major danger and/or we don’t trust the alternative paths offered by our leaders.

At business school and later at work, we are trained to look for certainty to plan to and execute against – assuming reduced risk. In our personal lives, we are comfortable living with probability and operating in uncertainly – there is a 40% chance of rain, and we decide, based on our risk tolerance, to take an umbrella or not. In our professional lives, we are expected to be certain and execute with confidence in outcomes. People, on a personal level, can innately adjust to uncertainty. However, they are reluctant operating with uncertainty at work because corporations expect and reward the illusion of certainty.

 

“The only thing that is constant is change.” -Heraclitus

 

3 Categories for Leaders to Plan in a World of Change

How to Win the Innovation Race

Change A Culture to Change the Game 

 

Why do some companies win at innovation while others fail?

How important is innovation to your growth?

 

From individual entrepreneurs to large global organizations, it seems everyone is chasing innovation. And it’s no wonder: Economists estimate that 80% of business growth comes from innovation.

So how do you develop an innovation culture powerful enough to consistently produce?

Gaia Grant and Andrew Grant are the authors of The Innovation Race: How to Change a Culture to Change the Game. They are the Directors of Tirian International Consultancy and help create innovative cultures for a range of businesses.

I recently spoke with them about global innovation.

 

The top 25% of innovative companies grow 2x as fast.

 

The Pace of Change

How is the accelerating pace of technological innovation impacting strategy and innovation?

Andrew Grant: Most people would be aware of how the pace of technological innovation has been accelerating, but conducting the research for our book The Innovation Race has really highlighted this issue and made us think about the potential impact of this manic race. We have discovered that the pace of change is now so rapid that we are in an unprecedented position. It’s like there’s an automatic speed-up setting on the treadmill that can’t be changed, and if we’re not careful the pace will just become too much to handle. Since the rate of technological innovation in particular has become exponential, a whole new leadership strategy and approach will be required. Small incremental innovations will not be enough to keep up. It will also be necessary to look ahead and anticipate the next new trends. By constantly looking for breakthrough new ideas and being ready to implement them faster, it can be possible to stay ahead of the curve. Agile new systems and structures will need to be built that can respond rapidly and effectively.

What is sustainable innovative action?

Gaia Grant: There’s no point innovating for the quick sale and short-term success. Innovation also needs to be able to be sustained over the long term. And, at a deeper level, it should be socially and environmentally responsible for the good of all people and the planet. Sustainable innovative action requires a balance of focusing on both short-term survival and long-term strategy: On the one hand the organization needs to be flexible enough to adapt to new needs and trends, but it also needs to be stable enough to be able to ride out the stormy times with a firm foundation. This will be both the greatest challenge and the greatest opportunity for success.

 

Authentic Connections Foster Innovation

How is empathy related to innovation?

andrew and gaia grantGaia Grant: Many people will innovate from their own perspective. That is, they will decide what they think the end user wants or what will sell the best and innovate based on this viewpoint. But being able to see from another person’s perspective is essential for innovation that connects with real needs, innovation that can make a difference in people’s lives and in the world – or purpose-driven innovation – and this requires empathy. To really embody empathy, you need to be able to see what someone else sees and, more than that, to be able to feel what someone else feels. This ensures the innovation process is human-centric and user-focused rather than innovator-centric. What’s essential to remember here is that the empathy process should not be a shallow marketing tactic but rather an authentic connection that enables the innovator to address real issues and meet real needs.

 

“Purposeful proximity in clever collaborative spaces can create hothouses for innovation.”

 

How to Create a Culture of Innovation

How do corporate leaders foster and encourage a sustainable innovation culture?

Andrew Grant: Most people assume that innovation is all about openness and freedom, but this is only part of the equation. Sustainable innovation needs to focus on balancing both openness and freedom – as well as the antithesis of these. That is, while there certainly needs to be openness and freedom, there will also need to be some focus and discipline to effectively guide the innovation process. Maintaining this delicate balancing act is at the crux of a sustainable innovation culture. The strategic leader will constantly be adjusting the balance to fit the market changes along with the organization’s current needs and future goals. It needs to be an ongoing constant strategic action, not a set-and-forget approach. It’s situational leadership.

 

4 Paradoxical Challenges to Innovation

Making Small Changes To Achieve Extraordinary Results

Give Just 5% More

What would happen to your life if you gave everything just 5% more effort?

Michael Alden, author of 5% MORE: Making Small Changes To Achieve Extraordinary Results, says it transforms everything. Success is often the result of applying just a little bit more effort.

It’s not always a massive effort, a radical change, or an overhaul. Often it’s just changing at the margin that makes all the difference.

 

“Success is just a little more effort.” –Sydney J. Harris

 

I recently had the opportunity to ask Michael about his research and new book. Michael Alden is the founder and CEO of Blue Vase Marketing and a recipient of SmartCEO Magazine’s 2016 Future 50 Award.

 

What made you decide to research the concept of 5%?

After the publication of my first book, Ask More, Get More, I received some fantastic feedback and accolades.  But as I continued to speak with people about achieving their goals, I found that many of them wanted more.  Despite all of the time and money they put into “personal development,” they were not where they wanted to be.  I wondered, why are so many people stuck?  Is there something that the average, everyday person can do to get ahead?  And is it something that is truly achievable, something that doesn’t cost money, something that yields real tangible results?

I reflected on what would happen if we applied just 5% More to virtually every aspect of our lives.  Was there research that showed what 5% More can do? I didn’t have the answer, so I began to study what our lives would look like if we had, did, or wanted just 5% More.  The information I found and the science to support what just a little effort can do in virtually every aspect of our lives was compelling.  But when I dug a little deeper for anecdotal evidence into my own life and the lives of other successful people, it was even more astounding and profound.  Instead of trying to make big changes, the way for any person, anywhere in the world, to improve his or her life, health, wealth, or relationships, and achieve their goals is by just adding 5% More effort.

 

“Get a little success, and then just get a little more.” –Maya Angelou

 

One More Makes A Leader

Would you share an example of someone who achieved success by applying the 5% More concept?

I sold cars right after I graduated from college.  There was a tall, skinny, somewhat awkward, but enthusiastic salesperson named Brian there whom I will never forget.  He taught me so many things, not only about selling cars but about how to approach life.  He was also on top of the sales leaderboard month after month, and he always gave just a little more effort every day.1119281865

One day, he sold FIVE cars.  Even for some of the largest dealerships in the country, five in one day is a lot of cars.  It was getting late, just before closing on a hot summer night.  Brian had already sold those FIVE cars, and he saw a customer out on the lot.  He jumped from his desk and headed out to greet the customer.  But just before he did, I asked him why.  I said, “Brian, you have already sold five cars.”  He told me something amazing.  He said, “Mike, every day I tell myself I want to just sell one car, then once I sell that car, I tell myself I want to sell just one more, until it is time to go home.”

Every day, Brian took himself just a little bit further and achieved above-average results.  You see, he was working until close anyway, so why not do just a little bit more?  Oh, I bet you are wondering what happened with that customer.  Well, Brian did not sell that customer that night, but the next day when Brian showed up for work, the customer from the previous night did as well.  Brian’s efforts, gave him a sale the next day.

 

“Success is dependent on effort.” -Sophocles

 

Change Your Health with 5% More

How can giving 5% more impact your health?

Michael AldenI’m a “big guy.” I played football my whole life, and I’ve told people if I have an addiction, it would be food.  I’ve always gone to the gym most of my life, but fitness results are mostly achieved through diet.  When you look at the diet industry and all of the fads that come out year after year, what happens with most if not all plans is that people can’t maintain them.  I did the research and our brains work best and adapt at optimal levels when gradually modified, when gradually changed until that change becomes habit.  So, as a big guy, I hit an all-time high weight about six months ago, and I was shocked.  I was 272 pounds.  I’ve tried everything you can imagine – from pills, powders and potions – for that quick instant change we all want.  But, it doesn’t exist.  Today, I am 245 pounds, still off from my ideal weight but much healthier.  That is a little over a pound a week that I have lost.  It hasn’t been easy, but it has been gradual and sustainable.  I put a plan in place that works for me, and each week I try to get a little bit better.  Am I perfect?  Absolutely not.  That is the best part about the 5% More mentality, you don’t have to be perfect, you just have to work at it a little bit and be aware of your gradual steps each day.  I joke around and say my next book is going to change the diet world.  It’s a concept that I think most people will recognize.  The title will be Eat Less Exercise More.

 

“The last 3 or 4 reps is what makes muscle grow. The area of pain divides the champion from someone else.” -Arnold Schwarzenegger

 

Is it possible to be 5% more persuasive?

12 Ways Brands Get Off Track

12 Sins of Branding

Companies, like people, can go off track. A simple error compounds. The wrong attitude takes root. A poorly designed strategy is implemented. Perhaps the focus is just a bit off, sending everything off course. It happens.

What do you do if you are off track? How do you recognize the signs?

There are two branding experts that I turn to when it comes to branding and revitalizing brands: Larry Light and Joan Kiddon. They not only have the experience, but their advice is my favorite kind: practical and actionable. I’m not one for studying theories that I can’t immediately use.

I recently spoke with the authors about the troubling behaviors and attitudes that cause companies to mess up their brand. They have identified 12 ways that brands go awry. Their updated book on branding, Six Rules of Brand Revitalization, is a must-read on the subject.

 

“Arrogance leads to complacency which destroys innovation and leaves you out of date.”

 

The Arrogance of Success

How do you pull a culture out of arrogance, especially if they don’t realize it?

Often it takes a sense of urgency, a perception of an impending crisis. Change is difficult. An arrogant culture resists change until it seems that there is no option. Change or die. Dramatize the need for change. The most dangerous disease is complacency. Arrogance can lead to complacency. Complacency can keep your eyes closed to innovation and leave you out of date with your customers. The common expression, “Go back to basics,” is often used to defend resisting change. Going backwards will not guide marketers how to best go forward.

 

“Culture change is led from the top. The leader sets the tone.”

 

Culture change is led from the top. The leader sets the tone. Sometimes a leadership change is necessary. This is what happened at McDonald’s in 2002. The new leadership immediately dramatized the need for change. Jim Cantalupo, the new CEO, created a sense of urgency.

We recommend the four steps of Breaking the LOCK on Brand Troubles: Fix Leadership; then leadership can fix the Organization alignment. Cultural change is an imperative. Knowledge is a powerful force. Become a learning culture…

 

12 Branding Sins

1: The arrogance of success

2: The comfort of complacency

3: The building of organizational barriers and bureaucratic processes

4: The focus on analyst satisfaction rather than on customer satisfaction

5: The belief that what worked yesterday will work today

6: The failure to innovate

7: The lack of focus on the core customer

8: The backtracking to basics

9: The loss of relevance

10: The lack of a coherent Plan to Win

11: The lack of a balanced Brand-Business Scorecard

12: The disregard for the changing world

 

 

Is there one that is most often the culprit in brand failures?

As we say in the book, the Twelve Tendencies for Trouble are not independent of each other. These are all interconnected forces. A company that succumbs to one seems to succumb to more than one. There is no single culprit. Each of the Twelve Tendencies for Trouble must be avoided.

 

“Problem solution is the most effective way to stay relevant.”

 

Encourage a Culture of Innovation

The Surprising Truth About the Power of #Now

 Are you overwhelmed and stressed?

Stuck?

Finding it difficult to make decisions?

Dr. Max McKeown is known as an author, a strategist, and a speaker. His new research is all about the power of now, outlining personal strategies to live better in the now. We can all learn to be more Nowist and increase our satisfaction even as we pursue our goals. No more endless worrying. No more feeling stuck.

I recently asked Max to share more about his newest book, #Now: The Surprising Truth About the Power of Now.

 

“Let go to get going.” -Max McKeown

 

The Power of #Now

This book is different from your previous work. What led to your study of the power of #Now?

All we’ve got is #Now! You, me, everyone. This is something we all have in common. Each moment of Now is about 3 seconds long, which means that your life is composed of about a billion moments. Our past is made of moments we can’t change; our future is made of moments that we can change. And Now is where you can make all the changes that will shape your life.

The Power of Now

You’ll see that the circles on the cover represent the past and future while the # represents Now. It’s when your life is experiences, and action can be taken or not taken. And the book is about finding joy in moving forward. And so the book is also about the psychology of motivating yourself because motivation means to be moved.

 

“Now is where you can make all the changes that will shape your life.” -Max McKeown

  

Lean Towards Action

What’s a Nowist mindset? What are some of the characteristics of a Nowist? 

The Nowist mindset is about the ability and desire to always keep moving forward! And because it’s about a flexible mindset, rather than something fixed, we can all be a little bit more Nowist.

For most people, most of the time, it is better to lean towards action rather than inaction. It’s more productive and ultimately more enjoyable to listen to the voice telling you to keep moving rather than to slow down. And its healthier to embrace and use the spontaneous energy of life rather than complain, slow down or stop.

Nowists tend to take pleasure in the work itself; they don’t just wait until the job is finished. And that means they get more enjoyment out of everyday living and working, even when that includes disappointment or crisis. They are hard to stop and benefit from a powerful do-it-now energy. They roll with the punches and demonstrate what the book refers to as a ‘feisty spirit of survivorship’ even when faced with the worst that life has to offer.

 

“For most people, it is better to lean towards action rather than inaction.” -Max McKeown

 

Contrast that with a Thenist mindset.

We all have this amazing, really useful, ability to remember the past and imagine the future. The problem comes when you spend too much time and energy worrying about things rather than taking action to make things better. Some people try not to think about what they need to do next because they are too harsh on themselves. Other people think they are powerless, so they give up rather than figuring out useful next steps. And others forget to take joy in the day-to-day which means they are only kind of happy at the end of the task, for two seconds before worry or ambition sets in. Living as a Thenist can be very tiring and not much fun – you might miss out on living.

 

Believe You Can Make Good Things Happen 

How is this related to optimism?

In a way, a Nowist mindset is about active optimism. You don’t just passively pretend that good things will happen. Instead you believe that you can make good things happen. And then you take action that will lead to a better future.

We need the ability to consider the past and the future, and we benefit when we can see our actions as connected with what happens to us. The best things are likely to happen when we combine the ability to look back and look ahead with the willingness to leap into action. We look while leaping, and leap while looking.

Let go to get going

Of all of the studies you cite in your research, what surprised you most?