How is it ever possible to become an innovative company when there is almost nothing that hasn’t been already invented?
Take a time machine ride to the year 1815. Become a fly on the walls of entrepreneurs and company directors. You will notice three attitudes: the optimist who believes that we can invent and sell anything; the skeptic who believes that glory was in the past and feels insecure about keeping the shop doors open; and the opportunist who believes that successful products that worked in distant markets are worth importing and making big profit from. Take your time machine again and head to the year 2215 and you’ll find that life is radically advanced from now. It is natural for most people to feel that we live in an age of abundance, and to a certain extent we do, but there are always visionaries that have a natural urge to push the envelope and change the status quo because they believe that life today could be better, different or both.
Innovation doesn’t have to only be about coming up with a totally new product or service; it can be in the way you address certain needs or wants. For example, the iPod was not the first portable music player, but its innovation was in the software and in the way you purchase, play and store content. Innovation can be in the form of merging two different trends, services or products to come up with something that adds value. For example, Moovo is Uber for mini trucks in India. You can order a mini truck to move furniture, deliver goods, construction material or whatever your needs for a mini truck may be. Moovo used the concept of Uber and introduced it to the cargo logistics business. Don’t be surprised if Uber like the Moovo concept and decide to apply it globally. That’s still innovation…and that’s just my two cents.
It’s frustrating when we work hard with our team on our plan and to no fault of our own matters don’t work as planned. What’s the point of planning when we can’t control external factors?
What a boring and limited life it would be if every single plan worked exactly as it should all the time. There are many great benefits in being challenged and forced to rethink your plans. You’re forced to consider alternative directions, which could lead to better outcomes than of those in the original plan. You could realize the faults of your initial assumptions. You could find ways to reach your objectives with less cost, manpower or resources in general. There’s a saying in business, “You succeed or you learn”. It’s not that you don’t learn at all from your successes, but failures and challenges teach you a lot more, and in many circumstances they help you reach better results. Having said this, it doesn’t mean you should not fight for your objectives if you believe in them; I’m only saying there could be a silver lining in disruptions.
Naturally, it seems like a waste of time at first when things don’t go as planned, but let us entertain your proposition for a minute. What if you never planned anything? What could go wrong? If you hire doers who act more like robots than human beings, you’re in a monopolized market without any threatening competition, you have no ambition to lead growth and you’re just happy with whatever profit the market gives you, then you can say it with full confidence, “My plan is to have no plan”. However, if you hire smart people who like to think on their own, if you have some serious competition, and if you have a vision for the future of the business, you need to have a plan. Best plans are the ones kept short and updated as needed, to intercept and counterattack the changes in the marketplace…and that’s just my two cents.
Annual performance reviews are awkward. And in most cases great employees end up being disappointed and soon enough they leave. Is there anything we can do to make evaluations work better?
Cancel them. Here’s why: Every year, managers are supposed to go through forms and meetings to personally and subjectively evaluate each team member reporting to them. The problem here is that you’re relying heavily on the quality and character of the manager. What if your manager is too subjective and she judges employees’ performance based on her own had she done it herself? What if the manager fails to recognize a genius employee because he takes the disagreements as disobedience rather than gifted, radical, analytical thinking that can add value to the project? Ranking is another problem. While titles and ranks may attract attention, the danger you face is mass dissatisfaction because not everyone will move up to the next grade or receive an “Outstanding” score, which means low morale.
Focus on the success criteria for each project per participant. Reward and recognize as you go with a few pleasant surprises here and there for consistent achievers. The employee, direct supervisor and an employee from another department who was on the receiving end of the employee’s work can all contribute to the employee’s review in a specific project. For example, an assistant chef can evaluate her own performance in a catering project based on set criteria. The chef as her superior, and a waiter who’s been collecting plates from her to serve can contribute. Yes to rewards, bonuses and recognitions, but not rankings. Just because she’s good at cooking it doesn’t automatically make her good at commanding kitchen staff. If she wants the jump, prepare her first…and that’s just my two cents.
For Loaay Ahmed’s advice on business or work matters, send a short email to [email protected]. Regrettably, only the questions chosen for publishing will be answered.
Loaay Ahmed is a management adviser and strategic expert. To learn more about Loaay and his consulting service, strategic business therapy, visit www.knightscapital.com.