It’s often difficult for an entrepreneur to have faith that Innovation actually happens when a company holds steadfast to its Core Focus, but it’s true. And while the world is concerned with diversifying, and responding to or finding “disruptive” technology and industries, I’ve witnessed the Core Focus being the friend of the Visionary, more than its enemy.
EOS teaches that a business is more likely to die from a glut of opportunity rather than starvation. Having a specialty or a niche when you own an entrepreneurial firm naturally increases the chance for success, because being the expert in one area sets you apart from competition. Having a Core Focus allows you to target a very specific market, and make better use of your marketing efforts. And with a clear vision, your people are very clear and intentional in their efforts.
Think of your Core Focus as a filter for new opportunities or ideas from within the company, most often initiated by the Visionary. This filter that strains the ideas through the micro-porous filters of your Purpose, Cause or Passion and Niche (all things that are defined in the EOS Implementation process.) Most of the time, if the opportunity does not fit within the Core Focus, it gets rejected. But rather than thinking of this Core Focus as an all-or-nothing tool, I teach my clients to think of it as the brake pedal. Not screeching to a stop, but gently tapping the breaks on a new idea. Tapping the breaks in order to do some research, talk to a few customers, meet with a few influencers, put together a budget, and decide how much time and money to spend on exploring this new idea. Some clients have even created Research and Development budgets for new ideas and possible innovations. We tap the brakes, present a clear opportunity to the Leadership Team and make a decision based on data gathered vs. gut or enthusiasm (or just boredom from doing the same old thing!)
Here are some tactics to consider, helping ensure that Core Focus is a true friend that supports Innovation in your organization:
- Suggest that the Visionary take an Innovation Rock each quarter and assign a budget to investigating his/her new ideas.
- Have an Innovation meeting once a quarter with representatives from all departments. Asking for volunteers will get creative people in the room. Challenge the team to come up with ideas that will keep the company relevant with current customers, beat the competition and use current resources and relationships to create additional value for your industry.
- Put a blank poster board in the break-room with the question, “What Do Our Customers Want? (One word).” Ask everyone to populate it, and strive for 100 different words by the end of the week. Bring the results to the Innovation team and report out on the exercise at the next All Company meeting.
By its nature, driving innovation produces many shiny things that can potentially dilute focus. Being mindfully dedicated to your Core Focus helps frame your innovation process. With the added measure of discipline, you will define fewer, but better opportunities and more likely achieve them.