ERG Enterprises’ founder and CEO. Nationally recognized thought leader in entrepreneurship, investing, and leadership.
Blockbuster. Blackberry. Sears.
This list could go on. These companies were once category leaders but saw their success diminish due to a familiar adversary: the status quo.
These examples show that even the most successful entrepreneurs or organizations cannot escape inertia. Processes turn stale. Products and services become deeply embedded. Nevertheless, competition is increasing.
How can you prevent your organization from becoming complacent? These proven strategies will keep your company from falling behind and allow you to continue riding the growth wave.
1. Encourage curiosity and problem-finding.
Have you ever worked for a company that welcomes every idea with “Why?”? If so, you’re familiar with what it’s like working in a culture full of curiosity. Curious cultures encourage internal scrutiny to make sure every aspect of the operation is practical and creates maximum value. They can also help solve problems that might otherwise go unnoticed.
Alexander Fleming accidentally discovered penicillin in Petri dishes contaminated with it in 1928. He was intrigued and spent weeks studying it before finally writing a paper that would help to make penicillin a reality.
These are just a few of the many essential innovations we have made. They all result from a constant pursuit to learn new solutions and improve existing ones. This is why ERG Enterprises, my company, has always emphasized the importance of cultivating this mindset. As CEO and founder, I constantly question our processes and habits. I challenge assumptions. Because I am a leader, my team also adopts these behaviors.
The top is where you can create a culture that encourages curiosity. You can prevent your company from deteriorating by adopting the culture and expressing its importance.
2. Employee voice can transcend organizational hierarchies
You have probably worked in a company that prevented you from criticizing a supervisor because of your formal title. Most organizations find this true, which is often to their disadvantage. However, some companies recognize the importance of encouraging employee feedback regardless of their organizational hierarchy. As long as they are constructive and valuable, everyone at all levels can speak up and be heard.
These organizations have higher engagement, better performance, and better retention, according to my experience. Research confirms this. IBM recently conducted a study that found that the majority of its more than 24,000 employees wanted to be able to speak up.
Create a safe place for employees to communicate to raise their voices. This means asking for feedback at company-wide meetings. Encourage discussion and analysis. Be open about organizational changes.
3. Get feedback from customers and partners.
You should seek feedback from customers and business partners as you would with employees. Although this seems obvious and straightforward, it is often not given the time or effort it deserves. Customers’ voice is vital to improving products and services, increasing customer retention, and making customers ambassadors for your company. You can spot problems early and foster goodwill by asking for feedback from outside parties.
Automattic, the parent company behind WordPress.org, provides a great example. Of the 950 employees at Automattic, 350 are in customer service and handle more than 50K monthly tickets. The company uses customer feedback to improve 75 million websites and one-third of the internet.
First, create a system to collect feedback from customers and partners. This could include conducting surveys online, interviewing customers, or monitoring customer reviews. Regardless of your method, give your team positive and negative feedback. Be aware of your strengths. Identify and fix your weaknesses. Discuss the problem and its causes. Then, prioritize actions.
4. Be a “lookback” person.
If you have not participated in a lookback, it will be like this: Employees meet to discuss the positives and negatives of a particular activity or experience. They also share their ideas on what they would change to improve it. Looking back creates tension by exposing failures. These are often used to address failures in customer projects, conferences, and other activities that require significant capital and time. Many businesses ignore this practice because they aren’t aware of its benefits or because it isn’t a routine.
ERG Enterprises uses “lookbacks” to track customer projects and other events. We also apply them to all aspects of our business. We ask:
- Was this the proper process?
- What worked perfectly
- What could we do better?
- What should you do immediately to stop and start?
We have programmed our company to be more responsible, intentional, and conservative with time, our most precious and limited resource.
Talk to your team about how important it is to adopt lookbacks in your company. Make it a daily routine by including it in your 1:1s and meetings.
You can be free from the tyranny and limitations of the status quo
Like many things in life and work, discomfort can signify that you are making progress. This is the only way to move forward. These four activities will help you create a system that generates healthy discomfort quickly and effectively.
When used effectively, these strategies can increase engagement among your customers, employees, and partners, develop better products, and help build a more vital organization.