Don't let past successes lull you into putting tradition before innovation.
Tradition is safe, easy and has brought your business success at some point. So why change it now?
All too often, the urge to uphold existing methods can be detrimental to a company's growth. Times change, and if you want your business to stay current it has to change with them or risk being left behind.
Just look at Google. In the late '90s, Microsoft dominated the PC space to the point that there was an antitrust suit leveled against it for bundling Internet Explorer with Windows. A few years later, Google exploded onto the scene when it revolutionized the search engine. It wasn't long before the technology giant created Chrome, one of the most popular web browsers out there, busting the myth that a browser coupled with an operating system restricts competition.
If Google hadn't broken this tradition, it probably wouldn't be the massive, influential company it is today. But this isn't just for giants. Your company can successfully break tradition and achieve tremendous growth, too.
IDENTIFYING OUTDATED PRACTICES
When you're analyzing where to abandon tradition to pursue growth and innovation, there are three main things you should do:
1. Examine your industry. Identify traditions and ways of doing things that are begging for re-examination.
2. Look internally. Find practices that once made perfect sense but have become unnecessary or detrimental due to company and industry maturation.
3. Get help. Involve your employees, customers and stakeholders in uncovering traditions that are no longer serving you well. As a leader within the organization, sometimes you're too close to the traditions to spot the outdated ones. When you involve employees and customers in the discussion, they might recognize opportunities for growth that you would not have seen.
Once you've identified the traditions that must evolve or be left behind, there are a few things you need to do before moving forward:
- Determine whether a tradition is still valuable. Sometimes, long-standing traditions still offer a great deal of value and don’t need to be done away with entirely – just revamped. In other cases, traditions have to be gently moved to the museum. Be intentional about deciding whether or not traditional practices are still useful.
- Remember that change is not an attack on the past. Just about every process and method can be refined, leading to waste elimination, reduced cycle time, improved customer satisfaction and a number of other benefits. The initial difficulty is sometimes simply recognizing that there might be a better way of doing things. But just because there’s a better way of doing things doesn’t mean that people were doing it incorrectly up until that point. Be careful to honor the past, but also learn from it.
- Rely on an expert. Once they recognize the need for change, many business leaders struggle because they don’t have the in-house expertise and resources needed to implement that change. You may need to call in someone from the outside who can guide and train your staff to carry the torch and continue changing for the better.
Change is scary, difficult and there's no guarantee that it will bring success. So why do it now?
When you let go of unnecessary traditions, you're seizing the opportunity to push your business into the future. If you involve your staff, customers and stakeholders in the initial evaluation of what needs to be improved, it will be much easier to identify weak areas and develop innovative ways to revamp them. It's risky, but it's worth it. The proof will be in your bottom line.
Chris Cancialosi, Ph.D., is managing partner and founder of gothamCulture, is a recognized expert in the field of leader and organizational development with particular focus on the leader's role in shaping high-performing culture.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.