Posts Tagged ‘active garage founders’

A diverse workforce: The smart thing to do

by Robert Driscoll on August 20, 2010

Business is no longer about what product or service you can provide in a local or regional marketplace.  Today it’s about competing in a global one.  The internet has allowed companies that once were only able to support a local or regional area to now make offers on a global basis.  Competing in the global marketplace not only means diversifying your products and/or services, but your most important asset as well: your workforce.

Some people still believe companies hire diverse workforces because it’s the politically correct thing to do.  What companies are finding out though is that hiring a diverse workforce allows companies to expand easier in to new markets with a diverse client base as they are in a better position to understand the demographics of the customers they serve.  At a high level, this is true, but just because you hire a diverse workforce will not guarantee you success in the marketplace.  Like with any group of employees, it’s what you do with them and how you use their diversities to your advantage in the marketplace.

Diversity in the workplace at your company should not only be limited to race, gender and age, but differences of views and personalities as well.  As a leader, you need to recognize these differences and align your people accordingly as it relates to their job function, whether it’s in sales, marketing, human resources, etc…  You wouldn’t have someone like Donald Trump head up your HR department unless you wanted everyone fired, right?  Understand your employees’ strengths and put them in positions where they will have the greatest impact.

At the same time, you need to get your diverse workforce to work together.  Simply putting them in a group setting and hoping they come up with unique and uncommon ideas will not happen on its own.  Without the proper guidance in a group setting they will talk about what they have in common rather than their differences.  All you will get is group-think and nothing innovative will come from them.  It is important to let the group know everyone’s background and who has knowledge in certain areas and to encourage them to share their unique knowledge.  But take it one step further.  Instead of just having the group share their unique knowledge, encourage an environment where they can debate so as to challenge the ideas of other members.  Yes, some disagreements and hard feelings might come of this, but it could lead to coming up with new and innovative ideas.  Ideas that could possibly change the marketplace you are in.

The landscape of the marketplace is diverse and constantly changing.  You must embrace it or you will miss out on new opportunities.  The same goes for your workforce.  Diversity in your workforce isn’t just the “right” thing to do.  It’s the smart thing to do.

Don’t just Invent. Innovate.

by Robert Driscoll on July 26, 2010

There are many misconceptions about what inventions and innovations are in the marketplace, but they are two very different things.  You can invent something and not do anything with it.  Think of Bell Labs which has hundreds of thousands of patented inventions.  Many of these inventions are just simply ideas and only some were great enough to be innovative where it changed the marketplace.  Or think about Leonardo da Vinci.  A great inventor who was ahead of his time, but many of his inventions simply were not practical during his lifetime.  Now look at Thomas Edison.  While he might have failed hundreds of times trying to invent the light bulb, when he perfected his invention and introduced it in to the marketplace, he created an industry.  He was an innovator.

  • Innovation isn’t about being new to the marketplace.  Look at the iPod from Apple.  It wasn’t the first MP3 player in the marketplace.  They just did it right and made it simple.
  • Innovation isn’t about technology.  Look at Starbucks.  They’ve created a business model around selling coffee in a comfortable environment and charging a premium.  They weren’t the first ones to sell coffee. They just created an environment that people wanted from a coffee shop and marketed in right.
  • Innovation isn’t about doing it better.  Sometimes you just need to make your product simpler and more affordable.  Look at Windows from Microsoft.  They opened up a new marketplace where people could afford it and gain access to it easier.  They don’t have the best operating system in the marketplace, they just made it easier to use and made it affordable.
  • Innovation doesn’t always come out of big research and development budgets.  There might be some initial research and development, but you don’t have to go broke in the process.  Look at Red Bull.  They tapped in to the youth culture in clubs and created their own viral grass roots marketing campaign and turned it in to a multi-billion dollar empire.
  • Innovation doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.  You don’t have to spend a lot when you’re innovating.  You can do it very inexpensively and create a new marketplace with low overhead.  Ebay, for example, was profitable from almost day one and found a way to connect with the marketplace immediately.  Its first year revenues were modest, but it took the earning from its initial years of operation and invested it in to research and development to grow the service.

What do all of these have in common?  They’re obviously innovative products and services, but they all made an impact.  They all did something that was different in the marketplace that connected with its users.

Sometimes creating that next big thing is just simply doing it better than your competition or making it simpler.  Ideas are all around us.  Now innovate.