How many times have you heard an executive assign familiar aphorisms to business challenges–and you just know it’s a means to justify bad behavior? They might say “business isn’t personal” as an excuse for sub-par treatment of others. Executives demand that employees “do more with less,” but then don’t allow people to focus on less. But the worst of them is one so many leaders seem to cling to: “Make a choice between fast, cheap or good.”
Old-school rhetoric like this produces the wrong answers and leads to more problems. Worse, for digital companies, it’s a practice that will keep the business and its people from truly transforming and competing.
The focus of an organization’s leaders can no longer center around compromising two out of three values. Instead, companies should focus on optimizing all of them. You can achieve all three when you’re working in the right ways to creatively solve problems, using data to make your decisions and modeling start-up behavior to move quickly.
There are three key philosophies to follow if you want to harness this new paradigm:
Commit to Risk and Creativity
Risk and creativity–along with the resilience to commit to both–is baked into the DNA of the world’s greatest companies. When PwC asked CEOs to name the most important ingredients for successful innovation, 31% said having the capability for creativity. That means you need to be willing to try–and fail. PwC’s 2017 Risk in Review report revealed that 47% of corporate officers said they track their risk appetite – up from 36% in 2015.
That is a good start, but companies need to go further. How? Embrace iconoclasts, support transformational ideas and be prepared to persevere when the changes you support feel difficult. Watch for pitfalls: commitment can collapse when there are changes in leadership, when tasks get reprioritized and when budgets run short.
Craft a Culture of Encouragement
Next, be transparent about what that means for employees; executing on creative risks successfully is a different ball game — and one that starts at the top.
Executives must be willing to prioritize serious discussions surrounding the firm’s current and ideal culture; what does a future, inclusive of more creativity and higher risk tolerance, look like? Identify specific scenarios, from staff meetings, to client conversations, to choosing new tools and technology–for the right reasons, not just to have the latest tech–and map out how your new mindset may benefit each situation.
The conversation should be continuous if it’s to be successful.
Understand Perfection Kills Progress
You can train harder than anyone else, wear the latest state-of-the-art performance gear and have the sleekest strategy for running the race. But if you’re not at the starting line when the starter’s gun goes off, none of that matters–you’ve already missed the race.
And that’s what happens when you focus too much time working an idea to perfection; you forget the importance of delivering it on time. No amount of research and iterating will guarantee market success.
But at some point–and it’s sooner than you think–trading timeliness for perfection is crucial if you want your hard work to pay off. Choose an optimal launch date based on your timeline and market variables. Agree as a team what you are willing to compromise–and what you won’t–in order to meet your minimal maturity model. Deliver that on time. Then iterate.
Perfection can kill progress and stifle innovation. You needn’t choose between cheap, fast or good. Change the paradigm instead. And get comfortable with change: transformation is never completely done; the best products and services remain a continuous work in progress. That’s exactly how it should be.