It always hits me the same time every year. I don’t know whether it’s a craving for warmer weather, or the realization that it’s time to dig deep and get started making the year a successful one, but the end of the first quarter is always a tough time for me. I’m tired of winter in New Jersey, and my summer vacation is too far off to lift my spirits.
Whatever the reason, by the end of March, I feel like I’m in a slump. My strategy to shake off the winter doldrums, though, works every time. I find a problem in my business – something I simply haven’t tackled yet, and I set out to make things better. One of the most effective ways I’ve found to fix something that’s broken, and brighten my spirits at the same time, is to use ripple innovation. Here’s how it works:
- Ripple 1: Find the solution within your own company. Far too often we can’t see a solution because we’re stuck in our own head – blinded by our compartmentalized approach to problem solving. So you’re looking for ways to improve your IT support? Ask your sales force. Not only will they have situational awareness your IT guys and gals don’t, but you never know – they might also have more tech skills than you realize. Look outside the department you’re trying to revitalize.
- Ripple 2: Find the solution inside your industry. Look to your competitors (who typically face the same challenges you do,) and see how they do business. Maybe your competitor’s Facebook page brings in tons of new business. Maybe the guy down the street has found a sharper price on office supplies. Look around to find best practices among your competition.
- Ripple 3: Find the solution in any industry. You may think your business is industry specific, but you’ll be surprised what you can learn from broadening your perspective. The food truck that moves around town, yet always manages to have a line when they pull in? They might be using Twitter in a way you can imitate. The jewelry store with a reputation for the best customer service in the world? You can learn something about consumer loyalty that will translate to your company, too.
- Ripple 4: Find the solution in nature. If you’re really stuck, try zooming out even further, to look at the way the natural world works. Say you’re having trouble retaining employees, even though you pay great wages. You might need to look at animals who spend a little longer nurturing their young before sending them off into the world. After all, animals who hatch and have to fend for themselves right away often have rather high mortality rates. Try implementing a longer training period, so when you turn your employees loose, they’re able to thrive on their own.
The basic idea of ripple innovation is that you have a whole world to learn from. Broadening your perspective to include other departments, companies, industries, and even other creatures can only benefit you and help inspire a new period of growth.