One of the hottest buzzwords now in business is “innovation.” We’re constantly hearing how it’s the key to not just disruption but mere survival in today’s hyper-competitive marketplace.
Yet, many of the professionals that I’m talking with may have a slightly erroneous viewpoint of what innovation really is.
Innovation is not reserved solely for start-ups, nor is it necessarily chaotic for you or your organization.
As I’ve written about previously, the Taylor family in St. Louis was starting a business where they were retailing an identical product to their larger competition. To differentiate themselves, they made a list of every point of contact that a customer would have with every player in their industry. Then, they decided to do ONE THING differently.
In other words, innovation was not about doing EVERYTHING uniquely — it was about executing at ONE POINT distinctively.
As you probably know, the Taylor family was entering the rental car business — where the Ford I get from Hertz is identical to the one I would receive from Avis. They named their small leasing business “Enterprise Rent-A-Car” and, of course, decided they would come to the customer, rather than make the customer come to them to get the automobile.
“At Enterprise, we pick you up!” was the innovation that changed the game.
And, if we think about it, other companies took that innovation and made it their point of creativity, as well. For example, Amazon first said, “What if we delivered the book to the customer, rather than make the customer come to a bookstore to get the product?”
Uber wondered, “What if the car came to the passenger, rather than make the passenger stand on a curb and hail the cab?”
Creativity is one of the Four Cornerstones of Distinction. To execute creativity and innovation in your business or career, you don’t have to “throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
You just need to focus on what is traditional or standard in your industry. Then, select ONE ASPECT of that you can innovate on — and execute for the benefit of your customers.
You’ve finally realized that your business is a “show business”…explored how your customers have changed…and accepted the challenge to deliver them with the “Ultimate Customer Experience” that they demand.
Yet, a critical question remains…
- How do you connect with your customers and employees during these crazy times?
- How do you communicate and establish those critical emotional connections with them?
- How do we grab the customer’s attention?
You take the “High Concept” approach.
The High Concept is a short, powerful, attention-grabbing phrase that interests and involves your audience.
- “Bomb on a bus.”
- “Clown with a red balloon.”
- “Kids bring a board game to life.”
- “Shark attacks terrorize a small ocean community.”
- “Teenager travels back in time and back again using a car.”
- “A band of unlikely companions on a quest to destroy a ring.”
- “A small group of soldiers must find the lone surviving son of a family and escort him safely home from World War II.
How long did it take you to guess that I was talking about Speed, It, Jumanji, Jaws, Back to the Future, Lord of the Rings, and Saving Private Ryan?
These phrases are proof that the “High Concept” works. They could even be as short as one word. The mere mention of the word “Shark!” evokes the image of the movie, Jaws. Just saying “Genie” makes you think of all the wishes you could make as Aladdin did…while hearing “Iceberg” instantly makes you relive the horror of the Titanic sinking.
There’s power in communication. These short phrases or even single words can make you feel a range of emotions because they make you remember a movie that left a lasting impact on you.
The same concept can be applied to business – in your “show business.”
Domino’s revolutionized the pizza business with their simple High Concept. Thanks to Domino’s, we expect all pizzas to be delivered in “30 minutes or less.” We may even ask the delivery guy from an entirely different pizza chain if our pizza is free when they arrive “late.”
When we say something “keeps going and going and going and going…” – do you expect the Energizer Bunny to suddenly pass by in front of us and interrupt our conversation? Even Gatorade has somehow taken the word “quench” and made it their own, and now we feel that only a brightly-colored sports drink can truly satisfy our thirst. And when you hear someone tell you to “have a break,” do you suddenly want a Kit-Kat?
The High Concepts are more than just taglines, they’re powerful words or phrases that have been ingrained in our minds and taken on a life of their own. In many cases, these brand High Concepts have become more popular than the brands themselves.
The best High Concept statements are incredibly difficult to craft – but powerfully important to have.
Because your High Concept should describe the lifeblood of the unique culture and offerings of your company, it must become something that has deep and lasting roots in your organization.
What is the “story” of your company, department, organization, and team?
How about YOUR personal and professional story?
The fundamental role of “story” in business is to create a method by which audiences (customers, prospects and colleagues) understand and emotionally bond with a brand, organizationally and individually.
Because of our entertainment culture, stories are more powerful than ever.
Yes, your “company story” has the power to make an emotional connection with your clients and colleagues. They can captivate your audience and cause them to stick around, waiting for the next chapter.
What do you think happens next? Your customers and employees become so invested in your story that they want to be a part of it.
- For your employees, that means thinking long-term and staying loyal to the organization.
- For prospects, that means converting into paying customers.
- For existing clients, that means having loyal brand advocates.
- A great story can inspire years of purchases and organizational loyalty!
- Whether it’s politics, sports, professional wrestling, or your business – we are ALL in “show business!” Therefore, we must tell our story!
But how? Where do you start?
Whether it is a movie, television program, or your corporate story, certain fundamental elements are found in all stories. Let’s examine the ingredients that create a compelling business story:
Companies get started because they fulfill a need. They offer a product or service that helps their customers overcome some sort of challenge.
When your business solves their problems, you become the hero they seek…and a story is born.
Strong Narrative Tension
Every story needs some form of dramatic tension; without it, we lose interest in the story. Your audience wants to wonder what happens next. They love the thrill of watching the hero’s journey and how they overcome all odds. The journey is perhaps the most captivating part of any story; it’s where the hero shows the audience what they’re made of.
We typically see these kinds of dramatic tension build up in a “three-act” format. It starts with “act one” – the setup or introduction. It is followed by the “second act” where the effort to resolve the conflict is established. Finally, we come to the “last act” – the resolution.
Because your business is “show business,” craft a three-act story that will have your customers cheering for you!
The Memorable Conclusion
There is almost always a well-defined, heroic resolution in every movie. The guy makes it to the airport in time to profess his love, or the lone survivor defeats the bad guys.
Take a hint from Hollywood: don’t terminate your business story with a definite end. Instead, conclude it with the hint that something new and exciting may follow.
The Marvel Universe has done an exceptional job at this. Each superhero is like a different product, each with their own story to tell. Sometimes they branch out and do their own thing, and other times they come together to tell a story together. The point is — because we’re all so invested in their journeys, the studios can keep telling us new stories, reinvent old ones, or go back to their origins, and we’ll be just as captivated.
- Are you ready to tell the story of why your business does what you do?
- Do you have a compelling reason why your story is worth telling?
- Does your story create distinction?
In horse racing, they’re called “blinders” or “blinkers.”
You’ve probably seen them – they’re the cups made of leather or plastic that prevent a racehorse from seeing much of what is around them…and keep them focused on what is in front of them.
It means they concentrate on the race at hand – not on the crowd, competing horses, or a myriad of other potential distractions.
You’ll also see them often used on horses that pull carriages on city streets to minimize the chances they’ll be spooked by all of the surrounding commotion.
Here’s the question for YOU: Do you need to take your blinders off…or put a pair of blinders on?
- Some professionals find it easy to be distracted by the multitude of opportunities they have – and they are engulfed by online interruptions.
- Many find it practically impossible to focus on a specific activity or action…even if it is one that could help them create distinction.
The first Cornerstone of Distinction is CLARITY – and, obviously, if you aren’t focused, you cannot exemplify the clarity required to stand out from your competition.
- Conversely, other professionals are so focused, they have become myopic.
Steve Jobs is an overused example, but his approach certainly applies here. While others viewed his focus to be on the Macintosh when he returned to Apple, he had a slightly different vision. He was clear that Apple should be concentrating on important aspects — like elegant design, simplicity of product use, and innovative marketing.
This meant that Jobs could also apply this clarity to new lines of products – the iPod, iPad, and iPhone.
His clarity wasn’t restricted by blinders.
Only you can determine if you need to put a proverbial pair of blinders on…or take them off.
However, being honest with yourself about what you need to do in that regard can have a major impact on your productivity, your success…and your ability to create distinction.