Innovators like you operate in a world of ambiguity. Every situation you face has some uncertainty, and you need to be prepared when unexpected things happen. If you’re not prepared, your strategy may derail and you end up losing competitive ground in the marketplace.
Sometimes those unexpected events happen internally. The priorities in any organization are constantly shifting. You may have had everyone’s full support for your programs only to find out that something’s changed, and now some other parts of the business are getting more attention.
You may also have to face some disruptive factors like a company reorganization or cutbacks in budgets and headcount. Or get resistance from other departments.
For example, what are you going to do if your new product is behind schedule causing you to miss the launch date? What if there are delays in manufacturing or shipping your products and you can’t get enough product on the shelves? That’s a huge problem. What if there’s a quality problem, and your customers start complaining? You must react to that.
Problems can occur externally as well. Things are always changing in the marketplace. New competitors emerge. A bad customer experience may be going viral on social media sites. You wake up one morning and find that your company is on the front page of the business section. Sales of your product are off forecast.
So here are some tips to help you cope with these types of challenges:
First, encourage your team to nimble. You have to act fast when these things pop up. You don’t want to let a small problem become a big problem. Your manager will appreciate when they see that you’re on top of it. So act fast.
Next, gather information. What’s changed to cause this problem? Make sure you separate fact from fiction. You don’t want to react to bad information or just assume you know what’s going on. What may have been the truth before..may not be anymore.
Seek advice, especially from credible experts. You need to leverage the brainpower of others. That’ll help prevent you from getting tunnel vision around the problem or possible solutions.
Next, get your team into the solution mode. By that I mean stop wishing the problem will go away. Have your team develop a list of possible alternatives, then work with your team on selecting and implementing the best one. Work on the things you can change and avoid the ones you can’t.
Be flexible here. You may have to give up on certain aspects of your plan to keep things moving forward. If you dig in too hard, you could make your situation worse.
Finally, look for ways to innovate. My experience suggests that the best way to revitalize a struggling marketing campaign is to unlock new value. If the organization is stuck, use systematic creativity methods to generate new opportunities for your business.
And that’s what great innovation leaders do. They help lead the company forward especially in challenging times.