Value. Price. Service. Customer Experience. These are all, of course incredibly important to the long-term health and growth of any brand doing any kind of business in any part of the world today. There are others too such as Content, Technology and Adaptability.
However, there may be one trait that rises above all others when it comes to the need to possess and foster long-term health and growth.
It is defined as the quality of being clever, original, and inventive and according to Julie Lyle, Chairman of the Board for the Global Retail Marketing Association and former CMO of hhgregg, Prudential Corporation Asia and Walmart is "more than important than ever."
The it ... is ingenuity.
And in a way it ties directly to the aforementioned adaptability for in order for one to adapt one must change and to change in today's "24/7 always wired world" as Lyle puts it, one must never stop being clever, original or inventive.
Or as Jeffrey Hayzlett -- former CMO of Kodak and author of the book Think Big, Act Bigger: The Rewards of Being Relentless succinctly puts it: "adapt, change or die baby!"
Masters Of Ingenuity
That's how Justin Matthew describes successful entrepreneurs. He would know, being named one of the top 10 entrepreneurs in the U.K. alongside such people as Richard Branson and Victoria Beckham. "If I had the choice between startup money or a world-class education, I would choose ingenuity over all else," he said. "Because without it, you cannot navigate in the ever-changing business climate and be responsive and with it, you can outsmart and out-innovate your competitors."
Another successful entrepreneur who believes strongly in the power and importance of ingenuity is Aaron Krause, creator of the most successful product ever launched on Shark Tank, The Scrub Daddy. "Ingenuity in business is the spark that lights the creative fire," says Krause. "If not immediately cared for like a spark to kindling that light bulb goes out and the ingenuity is lost."
John Milinovich, an entrepreneur who is cofounder and CEO at URX, a company that empowers publishers to monetize mobile content and enables advertisers to drive mobile commerce says every organization needs to foster new ideas. "When reacting to new ideas, the biggest mistake people make is saying, 'no but' instead of 'yes and' -- as a business builder, it's crucial to make sure that you create a safe place for ideas to be shared, discussed and tested."
Not Just For Entrepreneurs
Ingenuity and the use thereof is hardly limited to the entrepreneurs of the world. Far from it. Brands of all sizes reap the benefits of fostering ingenuity in the workplace.
"Ingenuity in business is vital, but only as much as it is backed up by persistent action, relevance to customers, and ongoing revitalization," says Randall Rozin, Global Director, Brand Management and Digital Marketing at Dow Corning. "By way of example, some years ago we realized many of our customers were looking for an easier and more affordable way to buy the standard silicone materials they need to make their end products more successful. We needed an ingenious way to disrupt our own business models to benefit our customers and our bottom line. The result was to create an entirely new way to buy silicones via our XIAMETER brand."
Rozin references Harvard Business Review, who along with others have often cited this new model, backed by a powerful commerce website, as revolutionary. "Nothing remains fixed and value propositions evolve, so not only is it important to launch an ingenious idea, but to constantly monitor the market and be prepared to revitalize the experience customers have with your brand to meet their ongoing and changing needs."
Lyle agrees. She says she has found in her career that most successful people have an insatiable curiosity for nearly everything around them, as well as courage and influencing skills to challenge the status quo. Ingenious people are always watching, listening, wondering.
"First, they wonder why that is the way it is?" she says. "They wonder what makes a customer do what they do? They wonder how that business model or product works? Secondly, they ask themselves: I wonder if I could do that differently? I wonder if it would be faster/more efficient if I partnered with another? I wonder if I should approach this problem from a different angle to find a better solution?"
Lyle adds these are the characteristic foundations for ingenuity and they fuel the brightest and most creative minds that are shaping our world. "They are the same characteristics that inspire ingenious people to question themselves and their own ideas, such that failure does not stop them in their tracks."
"Instead, they see failure as a minor setback, and more often, as an opportunity to look at the problem from a different perspective to find an even better solution. Ingenious people inherently challenge themselves as much as they challenge the world and processes that they see around them. And, we all benefit from their view and the actions that ingenuity inspires."
Are You Building (Or Killing) Your Brand?
"While I have alway been a huge proponent that by not acting on the ingenuity of a non-tangible idea you fail from the start, a recent video I watched gave me a new perspective on this subject," Krause told me.
The video he references was created by branding guru, David Brier. He made the video to provide a not-so-subtle reminder to all brands and all humans, for that matter, that resting on any laurels is never an option. We must always be moving forward and use our ingenuity.
Krause believes that when brands act on the idea and have a success and then stop the creative process that fueled the ingenuity they miss the bigger picture. "Ingenuous ideas don't stop with the first success, they feed on that initial concept and can grow into giant world changing ideas."
As to why brands stop, Brier says they have a tendency to do so for a number of reasons including:
- Endless refinement
"At some point, it's a threshold of tolerating only so much push back to pull something off," says Brier. "A select few have the tolerance and thick skin to push through whereas the majority gives up."
He believes that ingenuity is not only creating the next great thing but also the ability to apply ingenuity to the process itself, so one doesn't give up.