How do companies stay relevant? How do they stay competitive in the constantly changing dynamic marketplace? It’s innovation. Right? That’s simple. But how do you get it done?
At Lightning Rod Ventures, we believe in a disciplined approach to innovation. This article examines 3 principles that will help any organization develop innovative strategies on a continual basis to deliver value to the customer.
The first principle is being aware of where you are at in your industry.
Companies and organizations need to know where they are at on the “battlefield.” They need to know where they are at and where their competitor is at. The “battlefield” is the value chain of any specific industry. Where are you at on that value chain? And at that point in the value chain, what goes into delivering value to that customer? Those are the questions that drive innovation. A constant awareness of the surroundings and the external environment leads to disciplined innovation. A key component of knowing where you are at on the battlefield is remaining humble when you are having success. Leaders need to be constantly looking for the changing tides, not out of fear, but when you are in a position of strength, it is easy to become complacent and let your product offering become stale. Past success is not indicative of future success. The strategy that worked yesterday won’t work today in the current volatile changing market, and leaders need to be continually assessing the situation. Hubris and overconfidence in this market will lead to false assumptions and lead companies into a downward spiral that will result in lost market share and decreasing shareholder value.
The second principle is having a clear and simple company mission but allowing and encouraging challenge and dissent in the organization.
Companies need leadership that state and maintain a clear and concise mission for the company and that structure the organization to achieve the mission as best as possible. Any organization that has unity and buy in into the overall mission will outperform any organization that is not congruent in their mission and strategy. Silos and bureaucracy slow down communication within organizations and this has been realized and eliminated in many organizations by the agile method. Informal communication is a key component for innovation to flourish. However, unity around the company mission needs to include healthy debate and challenging questions at all levels regarding the best strategy. Companies need to be constantly challenging assumptions and testing hypotheses to seek the reality of the situation. The pursuit of innovation needs to include a culture of risk taking and performing small batch experiments without fear of consequences or failure.
The third principle is effective leadership.
The last article gave insight into our thoughts at Lightning Rod Ventures about effective leadership, and this is our thoughts on how it applies directly to innovation. Effective leadership and continuous innovation when integrated correctly will allow any company to move quickly, to change their strategy, change their personnel, or change their business model. However, it takes discipline in the little things (the organizational culture, the business model, organizational efficiency, etc.) for a company to innovate effectively. To be able to move quickly, see a target and move on a target in the business world, companies must have a defined set of principles, laid out clearly by leadership, that can guide the organization. An organization must also have the discipline to hold fast to those principles. These principles set the roadmap for the guiding strategy that will allow you to innovate, compete and win. There must be a culture of discipline but also a culture of risk taking. For example, when teams fail to hit a milestone or target, leadership must be disciplined to look at the reasons for failure. Leadership within the organization must be able to debrief failures openly and honestly with their team and then move forward with more risk taking. This is how companies continuously improve and resist stagnation. It is how companies survive. The business world is constantly changing, and companies must change with it. How do you manage that change? How do your mange that innovation when it moves so quickly? You maintain discipline to your core principles, to your core values.
At Lightning Rod Ventures, we have 5 core values: Communication, Integrity, Responsibility, Results and Leadership. Discipline to each of these core values will allow innovation to thrive, and in turn allow companies to hit critical milestones and scale with stability and flexibility.
What kind of leader are you? It may seem like a complicated question, but in my mind it’s not complicated, it’s very simple, it’s binary. You are either an effective leader or you are an ineffective leader and there is no middle ground. Effective leaders take responsibility for the whole team; they don’t look to blame their subordinates when things go wrong, they look to themselves and take full responsibility for the team’s actions. They don’t micromanage, but instead they know how to find good people and assemble a good team. They know what members of the team they need. They know what the vision is and what the goal is, and they can inspire their team members to accomplish that goal. Besides that, in the process of execution they are open to feedback to determine if they need to change the strategy.
Effective leaders are open minded, clear, communicative, and hold on to their integrity. Their team members know that when they speak, it’s the whole truth, there is nothing hidden, there is no agenda, there is no personal benefit. The effective leader places the mission and the objective over their personal gains, because they know that by achieving the mission, objective, and goal that everyone on their team will benefit, not just them. In contrast to that, the ineffective leader is someone who looks to blame others when things go wrong. It may not even be a conscious decision, it may be a force of habit and a force of survival stemming from our primitive brains. “Things went wrong so I’m going to blame this person so that I don’t get fired.” This way of thinking will only work in the short term. This way of thinking will not generate long term value in any organization. However, there is a difference between placing blame on someone and holding someone accountable for their work.
The leader of an organization has the responsibility to establish a culture of accountability across the entire organization, and not just to the leader and to the team through force of command, but in each individual team member to their own self through self-discipline. It’s an unspoken energy that shrouds the entire team when everyone is accountable to themselves because they know that this mindset and attitude will deliver the best results possible. An ineffective leader doesn’t make the objective clear and it results in chaos and pandemonium. An effective leader establishes channels of communication and facilitates giving and receiving feedback. An ineffective leader does not seek dissent in the organization and does not recognize the need to receive feedback from front line team members. Without candor and a culture of accountability, these leaders will not be able to deliver effectiveness to the organization.
At Lightning Rod Ventures, we are looking for effective leaders. Leaders who will hold the line when their face is in the fire. Leaders who won’t bail out; leaders who will stay in the saddle. Leaders that will dig deep with a relentless drive to accomplish what they set out to accomplish, using all the tools that they have at their disposal to achieve the objective. People, capital, time, connections, leverage and all the tools that they have in their arsenal they will use in a strategic way to help their team be successful. At Lightning Rod Ventures, we believe that leadership is the fundamental link to success. As a CEO, you must be an effective leader. As a CEO, you must be able to hire effective leaders. As a management team, you must be able find and hire effective leaders that you don’t have to micromanage and that don’t place blame on their subordinates but develop their subordinates to become better leaders every day.
At Lightning Rod Ventures, we build companies that are always looking to continuously improve, looking for better strategies, looking for better ways to deliver value to the customer, looking for better ways to return value to the shareholders. We do this through customer connection, through vision, through the relentless drive to produce results, and through leadership. At Lightning Rod Ventures, we help you hone your leadership skills in parallel with your business skills, understanding what the product-market fit is, understanding the customer journey map and the industry value chain, understanding how to deliver a message to an investor, understanding how to negotiate with an investor so that you maintain the integrity of your organization. We encourage you to hold onto that vision that you worked so hard to establish, build and grow. At Lightning Rod Ventures, we are forging leaders in the fire of adversity. It’s not an easy program and there is a reason for that. Because being an entrepreneur isn’t easy and the best entrepreneurs know how to walk through the fire.
"Embrace Failure But Always Train for Success." - Forbes October 9, 2018
Like Athletes, Entrepreneurs don't become successful overnight. They put in countless hours learning their craft and honing their skills. They train to win. Failures are not setbacks, they are data points.
Michael Jordan once said, "You miss 100% of the shots you never take." How did he become an All-Star athlete? It wasn't from imagining the shots from the sidelines. He made those shots and make those mistakes on the court. Missed shots helped him refine his craft and fine tune his signature dunks, free throws, 3-pointers, passes, rebounds, and assists.
When training for a sports game or a competitive race, you often learn more from your mistakes than from scoring or finishing a race. Scoring a touchdown or crossing the finish line is just a culmination of all the hard work, training, and fine tuning over time.
Failures will happen, but great athletes and entrepreneurs alike push through setbacks and move forward.
Welcome to Lightning Rod Ventures, a seed fund and accelerator program for industry disrupters in Southern California.
Our mission is to help entrepreneurs build successful companies. Our accelerator program educates founders on the skills needed to create long term value through a 90 day entrepreneur development program that walks them through a well designed business plan, pitch deck, and due diligence process.
What differentiates us from other programs is our focus on coaching and leadership development. Not only will you walk away with the knowledge to start and scale a company, you will also adopt the mindset of a champion to lead teams to success.