Remarks to Atlantic Director Education Event November 2, 2017

Remarks to Atlantic Director Education Event November 2, 2017

Last week I had the great pleasure of speaking to a conference at the Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax.  The event was for Atlantic Canadian Alumni of the Directors Education Program from the Institute of Corporate Directors, and was on the topic of Governance and Disruption.

There were a lot of ‘big questions’ being debated in the room, particularly around the paradoxes that are arising in being a Director in times of such uncertainty and change.   The role of management and of Directors is changing, and every firm needs to think about how they are managing the interrelated areas of Innovation, Disruption, Customer Behaviour Change, and Technology Evolution – and the impacts of all of these on both the strategy and risk profile of a firm.

It was extremely refreshing to see such energy around the evolution of good governance! Bravo to the Institute of Corporate Directors, The Sobey School of Business, and the Atlantic Canada Directors Education Alumni for putting together such a great event!

My session in particular was around the steps that Directors need to take to ensure good  strategy and good governance in these times of disruption.   I thought I’d share my slides from the event here…obviously there was a lot of dialogue that went with the slides – so feel free to ask me any questions that you may have…

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Slide01

Are you “Open for Innovation”?

Are you “Open for Innovation”?

I get asked a lot about innovation. When people are asking me about it they are usually asking in the context of technology innovation, but that is not what first comes first for me when thinking of innovation.

In thinking of true innovation in business I think of the times that I have been part of reimagining a way of serving the customer, reinventing new approaches to the conduct of business, or instilling new team practices.   For sure many of these had a technology component, but it wasn’t the technology that came first. Rather, the technology was a tool to solve a business problem or to capture an opportunity we saw emerging.

These days I spend a lot of time discussing with people the use of emerging digital platforms in their business. Often the discussion begins with someone asking me about these emerging “platforms”: Cloud, Internet of Things, Location-Based Services, AI, Big Data, Social Media, Mobile Payments, Programmatic Marketing, Digital Analytics, Content Management Systems, the list goes on… and on…and on! But these platforms are not where you start if you want true innovation in your business.

If you want true innovation in your business you have to start with what I call a mindset that is “Open for Innovation”.   This Open for Innovation mindset is a fundamental culture that you need throughout your business. From the front-line to the C-Suite your culture needs to encourage people to be always looking at the business from new angles, and constantly asking “how do we make this better”?

Once you have this mindset flourishing in your business, you will find that, rather than drowning in a sea of technology or innovation buzzwords, you will be able to see more clearly what your true business requirements are and make clearer requests of your product, IT and support teams to help you deliver innovation into action.

A key aspect of your leadership approach should be thinking through how you are creating this Open for Innovation mindset. And I think one of the best ways is through the questions you ask.

Here are some questions that you can regularly ask yourself, and your team. As you and your team get comfortable openly answering questions like these, I think you will find that creativity increases, and innovation breeds.

  1. Even if this aspect of our business is already perfect, how can we make it better?
  2. If you were starting a new business to compete with us, what would your strategy be?
  3. How would we do this differently if this was our one and only chance to Wow our customer, and our very survival depended on it?
  4. What is the number one thing our customers want from us that we don’t do? (and the only rule on this one is the answer is not allowed to be “lower prices”)
  5. What part of our business processes should we have stopped 5 years ago?
  6. What are the things our customers rate us worst on, and what would it take to fix it?
  7. What is the process in our company that frustrates our employees the most?
  8. If someone wanted to completely replace our core product or service, how would they do it?
  9. What skills, personalities or knowledge are missing on our team?
  10. Would you encourage your children to work at this company?

Try some of these out and listen carefully to the answers.. I think you’ll see some new angles on how you can apply innovation to make your business better.   Let me know how it works for you.

Driving Brand Influence in a Networked World

Driving Brand Influence in a Networked World

The Internet of Things is taking over the buzzosphere! The Internet of Things (IoT) has taken its place alongside Cloud and Big Data as the seasoning that gets tossed into just about every tech talk these days… so I couldn’t help but toss them into my blog!

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that cloud, big data and IoT are actually tech concepts that every business leader should be getting to know and thinking about.  Why? First, it is inevitable that these concepts will become important in your business. Second, few businesses will incorporate them in a way that creates true customer value and sustainable advantage. Third, the businesses that find breakthrough ways to apply these concepts will be the market leaders of the future.

So please make sure you have at least a rudimentary knowledge of what they mean, and that you’re thinking of how to incorporate them in your business strategy going forward. And also think hard about how these trends will come together in your customers’ lives. For want of a better term, you can call the point where these trends come together the Internet of Everyone. Consider a world where all data is available (the cloud), curated in real time (big data) and shared between devices constantly (IoT).

internet of everyone graphic

Most growth strategists are already considering how to incorporate various elements of these technology trends into sales and marketing strategy. Whether it is considering how to collect and curate all the data becoming available about customers; or understanding how to use machine-to-machine and location-based service opportunities in messaging strategy; or determining how to use the power of IoT in the distribution supply chain- the options for incorporating technology into marketing tactics are endless.

I believe it is very  important to have a clear and articulated strategy around how the use of these technology opportunities will impact brand strength. How will your ability to exert influence on your customers change?

In order to examine the potential impact on your brand’s influence, consider how your planned use of technology will impact each of the key dimensions of your brand in your customers’ minds. Think carefully about how to make the internet of everyone positively affect your brand dimensions, rather than putting them at risk.

The opportunity is ripe to be the company that uses the internet of everyone to build advantage – and that is surely the path to win. But remember, in this new era of interconnectedness, your every move is amplified. It has never been more important to look at every opportunity through the lens of brand impact.

Your thoughts?

Note:    If you have not yet completed a brand map to determine the unique influence levers of your brand, you can start with the five key influence variables as defined by Ipsos Reid: 1. Trust, 2. Engagement, 3. Leading Edge, 4. Corporate Citizenship; and 5. Presence.  (If you’d like to read more about Ipsos Reid’s definition of these influence factors visit this link to the Ipsos Reid Most Influential Brands in Canada 2013 report

http://www.ipsos-na.com/dl/pdf/knowledge-ideas/marketing/IpsosMarketing_POV_Influential_Brands.pdf )

 

When Clicks are the Mortar

 

Much has been written about “Clicks and Mortar” or “Bricks and Clicks” Strategy, yet I continue to be amazed by how many companies are not integrating their physical and on-line presence.   These companies are seemingly unaware of how their divergent presence is costing them.  Costing them in terms of near-term sales loss, but more importantly costing them in terms of missed opportunity to build loyalty with their customers.

Rather than think of your online presence as a complementary or differential experience to your physical interactions with your customer – think of both of these pieces as essential components of your complete end-to-end experience.  Fixate on how customers learn, buy and receive your products or services across all elements of your business.  Make the “clicks” the mortar that holds your entire customer experience together.

Tips for making your clicks your customer experience mortar:

  1. Consider how your online and physical experiences can complement each other.  Does your online experience make people want to visit your store? Does your store use online support to expand selection and inventory options?
  2. Make your brand consistent across your online and physical experiences.  This goes beyond the logo and colours that you use. Does your employee training and scripting use the same ‘voice’ as your online presence?  Have you clearly articulated the promise of your brand, and critically assessed how both your physical and online environments showcase and support this promise?
  3. Make navigation between the online and physical experience seamless. Don’t make your customers choose whether they deal with you in one channel or the other. Rather, measure yourself on how many of your customers use both, and on how easy you make it to move between them.

The key is to make sure you are thinking about your customer experience comprehensively.  Customers are demanding, digitally savvy and thinking about all their experiences with you when deciding whether to build their relationship with you further – make sure you’re ready!