Reece: Continuous innovations keeps organizations, businesses relevant

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013 4:47 p.m. CDT

I have been reading a lot about the future of associations in general and Chambers in particular.

I have participated in forums and webinars on the subject and just got back from the annual Illinois Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives Fall Conference. I was very interested this year because two thought leaders on the future of associations, Kyle Sexton and Mary Byers, were speakers.

Their take? We must change to survive. How many businesses today have that same mindset? Sure, I know, easy enough to talk the talk, but very tough to walk the walk.

So it was interesting that just recently in a trade journal there it was again about how do we, as Chambers, measure up to what matters now with our customers (members) on just how to deliver value (their definition, not ours) in a constantly changing landscape. I got to thinking how that is not only applicable in the Chamber world, but for regular businesses as well.

The article referenced a book by Gary Hamel, “What Matters Now: How to Win in a World of Relentless Change, Ferocious Competition, and Unstoppable Innovation.” The author cites Hamel’s seven signs of decline, which include:

• Gravity Wins: Sticking with things that are no longer successful as the easiest and most familiar course of action. Force of habit wins.

• Strategies Die: They are replicated, superseded, eviscerated, etc. Asking the same questions you have been asking for the last decade; answering them with the same strategies and expecting different results.

• Inflexible Business Systems: When an organization’s focus is on maintaining and fine-tuning its existing systems rather than innovating, reconfiguring and adapting. 

• Fossilized Mental Models: Over the years “what was once the best way, becomes the only way.”

• Abundant Resources: When the emphasis is on more of the same – programs, staff, etc. – rather than on better strategy and solutions. “Affluence dulls the appetite for innovation.”

• Contentment and Entitlement: No hunger for new knowledge; no sense of urgency or drive for innovation.

• Defensive Thinking: Defending the status quo takes priority over learning, improving and innovating; and the organization takes priority over its customer.

Here’s today’s cold shot of reality. We may think we are, but we aren’t perfect. Our companies aren’t perfect, and neither are our products. 

To change the future, you need to change the questions you ask today. The first step is realizing you could actually be doing things better. Doing the same thing, without addressing the need to change our organizations to reflect what’s going on in the world, is a sure recipe for oblivion.

Hamel goes on to state, “Obviously, there are lots of things that matter now. But in a world of fractured certainties and battered trust, some things matter more than others. While the challenges facing organizations are limitless; leadership bandwidth isn’t. That’s why you have to be clear about what really matters now. What are the fundamental, make-or-break issues that will determine whether your organization thrives or dives in the years ahead?”

Honestly, it seems that this has been an age-old issue. For another, read “Six Drucker Questions that Simplify a Complex Age” by Rick Wartzman at http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/11/six-drucker-questions-that-simplify-a-complex-age.

• • •

On Nov. 19, join The Salvation Army, 290 W. Crystal Lake Ave., as it hosts its annual mixer. All chamber members are encouraged to attend for great relationship building opportunities. 

• • •

How would you like to showcase your business in front of 5,000 potential customers? Well, the 2014 Crystal Lake Home & Business EXPO, March 29-30, is one of the best, most cost-effective ways to do just that.

Booths are 60 percent sold out, so don’t wait any longer and register today.

• Gary Reece is president of the Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce. Email him at garyreece@clchamber.com. 

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