Invest in new thinking

In this issue of the CHAMBER magazine I think you’ll notice some differences. We’ve changed our shape a little, our paper stock is more of a matt finish, our column inches have changed, we have updated our format on some of our key items, even our font has changed and we’ve dropped the THE from the magazine title! For those of you who’re retracting in horror or have become dazed and confused ask yourself this – “Am I good at change?”
Now, obviously I don’t really expect these updates to throw you into a spin, but I do think that it is a serious question. In a turbulent economy it is vital to be able to adapt and respond to changing market forces and it has been proven many times that it is the most innovative of businesses that survive in an economic famine. That is why we have chosen this issue to focus on Innovation and Investment. We know that many of you are feeling the pinch that comes with hard times and yet this is the time when creativity thrives.
It was Bill Gates, a master of innovation, who said “We are in an economic downturn but an innovation upturn.”
He was referring to that while most people are focusing on the downturn and the dangers it poses we should look for the opportunity for innovation and investment in new ideas and thinking.
A good number of businesses have taken this concept on board and are restructuring and streamlining their operations but how can you maximize your chances in the change maelstrom? Well, for a start I think, be positive.
Look to your customers and ask them what their needs are, have they changed? Are there products and services you offer that are not as viable as others? Can you operate in a more cost effective way? Can new technologies save you space, time or money? These are all simple enough questions that you may have asked yourself a hundred times, but it is these same types of questions that become the mother of invention. Open your mind to change and innovation. Look at things differently. Adapt to your market and lead the way. Of course, innovation still requires direction. You can’t set sail without the crew knowing where you’re heading. Share your vision and have a clear purpose. You need one overarching statement that will define the direction for your business and which people will readily understand and remember. Great leaders spend time illustrating this vision to their staff so they can become passionate entrepreneurs within their own roles, finding innovative routes to success.
In some ways it is useful to adopt the philosophy of the venture capitalist that uses a portfolio strategy to balance the risk of loses with the upsides of wins. They like to consider a large number of proposals but are comfortable with the knowledge that some of the ideas they back will fail. The successful venture capitalist of course has a portfolio of mainly wins, often because they have left the road ‘most travelled’ and invested in the new and the original. This is an important lesson for corporate executives who may be used to considering only a handful of proposals and who see failure as only that.
In this issue you’ll find many examples of ‘good news’, whether it be in our Milestones section with businesses celebrating up to 40 years of service to our community or the article on Medical Tourism, a prime example of innovative adaptation, or a look at how technology can be applied to forward thinking in an article prepared for us by IBM. But if you are to take anything away from this issue let it be this: Be a driver of change, be flexible and creative. Be prepared to invest in new thinking.