There are two kinds of companies: those who are leveraging technology to become global players and those who will ultimately end up being a pawn shop on main street.
That’s not to say that brick-and-mortar stores, service-based companies, or consulting companies can’t be technology-focused companies. They absolutely can be. And if they want to continue competing in today’s world, they need to be.
When I talk about being a technology innovation company, I’m not just talking about using technology in your business. It’s not about what computer systems you use or whether you have people writing software on your team. It’s more about the mindset of your business.
Are you constantly innovating? Are you looking at what internal solutions could be leveraged in the marketplace? Do you have leadership in place that’s ready to try something new?
In fact, for the way I define technology innovation, I wouldn’t even put Microsoft in the innovation space. They sell boxes. In recent years, they’ve tried desperately to innovate with products like Azure and Office 360, but they’re still losing $1B per month. They’re losing out to Amazon, Google and other major companies that started innovating while Microsoft was still stuck in their traditional computer software model.
So how do companies move toward the innovation mindset? It starts with leadership.
Alexander the Great said, “I am not afraid of an army of lions led by sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.”
It’s about leadership. If you don’t have the leadership and management willing to make the decision and start moving in this direction, there’s nothing anyone can do to help you. You have to set the vision and be willing to work toward that goal.
So how does a company whose primary product is insurance, engineering, roofing, or any other product or service make this shift? Start by tapping into the experience of your team and asking the big questions.
What problems have you solved for one customer that you could leverage on a bigger scale to solve for many? What internal processes have you streamlined that could be developed into a marketable product for other companies like yours? What needs to be done in your industry that isn’t being done?
One example is an engineer who created a software program that automated some of the setup for folders, layouts, and specific projects in his realm of engineering. Every engineering firm needs a system of some kind that does that. Many of them have probably worked out their own internal system, but they haven’t tried—and maybe even haven’t thought about—selling it.
He’s now landed $1M from investors and has a state agency committed to using it because he solved a common problem in his industry.
Also, don’t overlook the value of your data! Your data is worth much more than any infrastructure costs. Amazon costs almost nothing to run, but just think about how much data they have. So many companies are sitting on data that they never use. Start thinking about how you can use data to spark innovation.
Your leadership, vision, experience, and data are the keys to building a technology innovation mindset.