All it takes is one idea to change the shape of the whole industry. That’s why businesses of all stripes should be encouraging innovation, says Scott Steinberg, CEO and founder of FutureProof Strategies.
Steinberg was a keynote speaker at Cultivate’16, AmericanHort’s annual horticulture industry trade show in Columbus, Ohio. Here are a few keys he says help encourage innovation in your nursery.
Innovation isn’t always about thinking big. Small changes can make a big difference.
“Evolutionary changes can be every bit as powerful as revolutionary changes,” Steinberg says.
EMC Corporation is a data management and IT service provider that made news this summer by moving ahead with a merger with computer goliath Dell. The company’s products are designed to keep its customers’ precious data safe, whether in the cloud or on a physical server rack. EMC had found that traditional business models would not provide a solid platform for employees to influence the company with change. Steinberg says EMC routinely holds innovation contests that are open to the entire workforce. From there, execution takes over. The winning ideas would not be tabled indefinitely; they would be turned into solutions.
Steinberg spoke with executives at FedEx about encouraging innovation in their business and found that the biggest challenge they face is getting employees to speak up.
A program like EMC’s innovation contest can help with that particular problem, but only if the company follows through on the promise. Steinberg says when the employees saw their ideas made real, it showed them that the higher-ups valued their input and were willing to devote resources to them.
Think big, start small.
But those big ideas have to come from somewhere. Steinberg says innovation in business has a lot in common with poker. Smart players will make small, probing bets first, and only bet big when they know they have a winning hand. Pro poker players call this strategy “selective aggression.”
“Innovation is about not being afraid to fall on your face,” Steinberg says. If it doesn’t work, that’s OK. The crucial part, Steinberg says, is not to let the fear of failure stop you and your team from trying new things. And when you have a good hand, go all in.
If you drink any soda at all, or even if you pass the aisle in the grocery store, you’ve probably noticed the “Share a Coke” campaign. This worldwide marketing push started small. The iconic brand had lost its “cool” factor in Australia. Young Aussies weren’t connecting with Coca-Cola. They were either staying away from soda entirely or buying alternative energy drinks for their caffeine rush.
That was the situation from which “Share a Coke” was born. Originally called “Project Connect” based on its ambition to both strengthen the brand’s bond with Australia’s young adults and inspire shared moments of happiness in the real and virtual worlds – “Share a Coke” swapped out the traditional Coca-Cola branding on cans and bottles with 150 of the most popular names in Australia.
It was a simple idea, that by putting a name on that beverage, you could encourage Australians to come together and share a Coke. But there is power in names, and the campaign took off. That summer, Coke sold more than 250 million named bottles and cans in a nation of just under 23 million people.
As it gained popularity, Coca-Cola let consumers vote for the second wave of names, creating even more social media buzz.
The marketing maelstrom continued with a transformation of the Kings Cross advertising billboard sign (think Australia’s Times Square). Via text message, consumers could name a person they’d like to share a Coke with on the interactive digital sign. People waited for hours at interactive kiosks to personalize a Coca-Cola can with any name of their choosing. The campaign has stayed relevant, and has now been rolled out in more than 80 countries across the globe, including the U.S.