“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” -Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali had an uncanny ability to spot opportunities, move quickly and strike. He dominated in the ring by out moving and out striking his opponents. As Ali told Liston in their pre-fight weigh-in, “Your hands can’t hit what your eyes can’t see.”
Driving business growth follows a similar set of principles: spot opportunities, act, measure and adapt. The company that acts and learns faster will outpace their competitors.
Companies respond more to threats and problems than to opportunities. We’re pain averse.
Sales people are trained to look for FUD—fear, uncertainty and doubt. A buyer with a defined pain is far easier to sell than a buyer considering opportunities. Opportunities can be exciting, but are often abandoned due to a company’s risk aversion.
Don’t confuse problem solving with innovation. Solving problems is reactive, and when you’re experiencing pain it’s usually too late. Train your team to spot opportunities—opportunities to:
- improve performance,
- cut costs,
- launch new products or services,
- acquire new customers,
- even opportunities to fire customers.
When you find an opportunity, test it.
Too much time is wasted in meetings and analysis. Often the best way to test an opportunity is to act. Throw a jab.
Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup, suggests startups create Minimum Viable Products (MVP) to test their theories. Ries argues a company won’t know if they’re on the right path until they get real feedback from their clients and target market.
The MVP concept can be applied throughout your organization. Innovation doesn’t require big budgets or executive sign-off. Create a MVP, test it, and see how it works. Spot an opportunity and act.
Measure and adapt
MVPs are cost effective to test ideas and concepts. But what you measure is as important as the MVP itself.
Are you testing the value of an opportunity, or are you stroking your ego?
When you spot an opportunity and act, decide what you’ll measure to prove the value of the new idea:
- What is the opportunity?
- How will it impact the business, your staff or your clients?
- Why is it important?
- What are the desired outcomes?
If you have a basic business plan you can select the qualitative and quantitative measures to assess your actions. And that data will enable you to adapt your behaviors: increase, decrease, shift or stop.
The innovators advantage
Muhammad Ali went into the ring with a strategy: hit first, hit fast, keep moving. He wasn’t waiting to respond to his opponent. He was looking for opportunities.
It’s a great philosophy to adopt. If you’re adapting quickly your competition won’t know where you’re heading next, and from your vantage point they’ll seem slow and sluggish.