I was reading an interesting article today. It concerned a group of early stage CEOs looking for “new approaches to selling.” The arguments were thoughtful–“Is there a faster easier way to scale?” These executives struggled to hire and onboard quickly enough to address the opportunity. “Is there a more cost effective way to reach customers than through a direct sales organization?” “How do we more quickly expand into new markets, where our sales people have no experience?”
The “Aha” moment came to these executives when the discovered the potential of leveraging “ecosystems.” These “ecosystems” are various types of partnerships–resellers, channel partners, distribution, “manufacturer’s reps,” technology partners, integrators, and more. It was a novel concept to these executives and could help them better address their growth challenges.
I chuckled a little. While these choices were “new” to them, they’ve actually been in place virtually since the very first sales transaction (I’m sure Eve soon discovered a more efficient way of offering apples was through retail stores….) Leveraging relationships with organizations outside our own has always been a fundamental to driving growth, expansion, and creating differentiated value for the end customer.
But this post isn’t about these ecosystem or channel relationships. It’s really about innovation.
As we look at driving change–whether to enable more growth, address challenges or problems, address new markets/opportunities, bring new products/solutions to market; to often we look for something new and novel. We seem, too often, to be compelled to search for that which is new or novel, something that has never been done before. Alternatively, we exhibit imitative behaviors, copying those around us, possibly thinking there is safety in numbers.
But too often, we miss the opportunity to look at what may have been done in the past, what others in very different spaces may have done. We miss the opportunity to learn from those experiences, tweak and adapt them to help us grow and change.
We would do well to become students of business and selling history. What have organizations and people done in the past? What has worked? What has failed? What might we adapt to help us do new things and produce better results?
Early in my career, I suspect I displayed much of the ignorance and, possibly, arrogance we see today. People, perhaps managers or the “more experienced” (that’s code for the old folks) people would say, “Well we used to do these things…..” I’d immediately shut them down, “You don’t understand, times have changed, things are different…..”
But we can learn a lot from those organizations and people that have gone before us, even those that may be decades or centuries old. We can accelerate the changes we want to put in place by studying what others have done and adapting them to our current circumstances and challenges. We can also look at organizations in industries and markets very different from ours, artfully adapting them to our markets and challenges.
It’s the principle of artful plagiarism. We can innovate, change, and move forward so much faster, by studying and adapting what others have done.
“Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it…” Winston Churchill in a 1948 speech to the House of Commons
Brian MacIver says
David Brock says
Brian, there’s a way to look at this that may be fun—— It turns out, we must be very new 😉