Inspiration Comes from Anywhere

Illustration by Christian Laborin

A common innovation challenge inside established organizations is the Not Invented Here syndrome, where you block ideas that come from outside the four walls of your organization; denying yourself of inspiration and a fresh perspective.

So, as a business leader, how do you overcome this challenge and jump-start innovation in your business? You take to heart and practice the principle of “ideas come from anywhere”, not just the people inside the organization.

How does this look like?

Lift and shift, taking what works in another domain and adapting to yours is a powerful strategy for innovation and changing the game in your industry.

Starbucks as a source of inspiration for delivering a consistent customer experience for a restaurant

Starbucks is a brand name that is know across the world, one of its strengths is its customer experience is consistent everywhere. Why and how do they pull it off at that scale?

Last year I was consulting for a new Cali-Baja restaurant called Oryx Capital. At that moment, the restaurant didn’t have a unique day to day customer experience, had some operational inefficiencies and bad management. The Chef knew the type of experience he wanted to convey, and it wasn’t how every other restaurant operates.

The pieces and mechanisms needed to execute that strategy were missing, so we shifted our perspective to fix the problem and instead of bench-marking against other restaurants, we bench-marked against brand names in unrelated industries that operate retail locations at scale; ones who’s customer experience is consistent anywhere in the world.

One of those brands was Starbucks.

For the restaurant, one of the goals was to create an environment where employees look out for one another, because they are the ones who drive the customer experience. So, from Starbucks we took away some ideas and adapted them to the day to day. One such idea is a pin system where employees reward themselves for doing a great job on a different set of criteria that determines the best day to day outcomes. This pin system is not new, but we adapted it for the specific experience the restaurant wanted to deliver because simply relying on having the right people is not enough.

This is a simple example of taking a very simple idea that work in one domain and adapting it to another; inspiration comes from anywhere.

Athletes learn from artists and musicians

It even applies to sports. For example, Kevin Garnett, ex-NBA player, shared a story on how he improved his game by watching Beyonce:

Check out the video below:

Again, inspiration comes from anywhere.

So, what are the lessons?

Take a wide angle view

Innovators take a wide angle view because they understand that competition is between anyone who has the ability to raise expectations, in any domain or industry.

The best practices in your industry are blockers to inspiration. To break out of the shackles of precedent, you need to step out of your box to search for lessons in other boxes.

Ask yourself: Who’s solved a similar challenge in another industry?

Learn from anyone

Continuing the previous point, remember that where all think alike nobody thinks very much. Over time, business leaders and their organizations develop of type of tunnel vision and benchmark against their industry, copying their best practices until everyone looks the same. You have to challenge this copycat mindset, instead take a wide angle view and learn from anyone who’s overcome similar challenges in different domains and industries.

Ask yourself: What can we learn from another domain and apply it to ours?

Obsession

As I stated on my last post, obsession beats talent. But you have to obsess over the right things. For example, there are many talented people who are experts in their domain, developing best practices that are copied by everyone in the industry. The problem with this is they become myopic to different approaches; which leads to mediocrity.

Innovators, on the other hand, obsess about outperforming themselves and not regressing to the mean, where mediocrity lives. They do this by questioning existing practices and developing next practices, ones that can transform an industry; understanding those next practices will not come from their industry or domain.

Remember: There are no best practices, only next practices


Bottom line: Proven insights from one field can become a powerful force for innovation when they migrate to another field. Remember to expand your view, learn from anyone and obsess over not regressing to the mean.

Ping me @jorgebarba if you want more actionable advice on how to conduct outside-industry bench-marking and put Lift & Shift into practice or shoot me an email to jorgea.barba@gmail.com