I hope it’s not tempting fate to talk about life post-recession, and please don’t blame me if we double dip instead of recovering.  I’m sure I read somewhere about green shoots, and as an eternal optimist, that’s good enough for me.

If the economists are right and we are on the upside of the curve, we should be using this moment to get ourselves ready to gain share from the competition, surely?  It is reasonable, I think, to suggest that organisations which are track-ready and at the starting line when the economy starts to show real growth and the mood changes significantly are in a position to break free from the pack and gain significant ground.

So far so obvious.  But where should we concentrate our efforts?  Which muscles should we be building, what’s the right diet, and indeed what type of running shoes are going to work best on this new track (Answer: maybe none at all!)?

It seems to me that there are 5 ingredients in the winning mix.  I have no data to support this proposal, and I am very open to debate on it.   Put it this way, if I were leading an organisation, this is where I would concentrate my efforts.  I think all the ingredients are needed, and I think there is a logical flow to the order in which they used.  Here goes:

1.  Innovation (instead of invention).  I am grateful to my colleague Dominic Rowsell for his inspiring input in this.  Author of  one of the best books I read last year, “Why killer products don’t sell”,  Dominic proposes that before the crash of 2008 we lived in a world of invention – the world of the solution.  Now in 2010 we are in the world of innovation.

What happened in between?

2009 may have felt like a long year, but really it was the blink of an eye. In that blink huge changes took place.

  • Whole industries have transformed – automotive, banking, energy.
  • Markets have changed – China is now a bigger consumer of cars than USA.
  • Communication has changed – social networking weakens the media.
  • Interaction has changed – B2B and B2C is blurred.
  • Perception has changed – consumer values influence business and politics.

Only the truly innovative organisation will recognise this opportunity and “find the quirk that works”, to quote another of my highly innovative training affiliates.

2.   Aligning the  Sales Culture.

You are a major corporation with a track record of strong sales for your current range of offerings. You have worked long and hard to produce a unique innovative offering that you know the market needs. It should have “flown out of the warehouse”, but sales are slow and it has hit the morale and commissions of the sales team. Why?

Alternatively, you are a nimble start-up with experienced founders, who have built their reputation on sales in previous large corporations. Again, you have developed a ground-breaking, innovative offering and made some early sales. To really ramp up revenues you have decided to sell through the channel, or you have hired a hotshot salesman, but nothing is happening. The only sales are being made by the founders. Why?

15 years of research has revealed that customers use four different Buying Cultures.  The maturity of the offering in the customer’s mind determines which of the four buying cultures is appropriate, and this is most evident in the purchase of innovative ideas – be they products, services or approach.

Misalignment of our sales culture to the Buying Culture prevalent in our key market will mean, at best, slow uptake and at worst, abject failure.

3.  Execution.  Our post-recession innovative culture will be a well meaning set of ideas and initiatives which come to nothing unless we can deliver them.  Creating a meaningful plan with clear allocation of responsibility and then executing on it relentlessly will really help us to accelerate off the starting block.  How much of a challenge is execution excellence for your organisation?

4.  Changing the mindset.  We have the innovative ideas and are determined to execute them well.  This will be through people.  Their behaviour will need to change for this to work, and therefore the tapes which play in their heads will need to change too.  Apparently  we listen to self talk c. 60,000 times per day, so if the tape which is playing does not align to all the change which is flying about, we are likely to come unstuck fairly quickly.  This is the hardest of all 5 ingredients to manage, because you can’t see it.

5.  Behavioural evolution.  We are going to need some sustained changes in behaviour to support this new environment.  It’s bound to be a bit chaotic, not everything will be clear when we start out, and some people will adapt more readily than others.  I’d say the behaviours which will be mission critical are Conflict Resolution skills, Assertiveness, Listening skills and Planning/Decision Making.  People might intellectually grasp all of the change, they might want to support it, but if they don’t have the necessary behavioural skills to help work out the way through this big moment, they  may well fall over.

I would love to hear your views about the top 5 ingredients.  Let’s get the debate going!

My next 5 blogs will dig into each of these ingredients in more detail, so please subscribe if you think the topic is relevant to your organisation.