The first casualty of a prolonged down economy is the willingness to take risk. This condition manifests itself as caution. At first glance, the cautious assessment of all decisions may seem prudent, but this tentative approach to seizing new opportunities quickly evolves to irrational risk-aversion, a major contributing factor to business stagnation and ultimate failures.
Irrational risk-aversion is a psychological virus that can wreak havoc on two levels:
* At the business level it creates a bunker mentality “I have to just hold my own for now”.
* On an individual level, the cognitive dissonance created by the intersection of the psychology of irrational risk-aversion and the reality of business opportunities creates fear and indecision.
“I know there is an opportunity to leap ahead of competition, as they cut back on their marketing, but I can’t justify doing anything but trying to hold on and make my resources last as long as possible.”
Adding fuel to this fire of stagnation are all the business, marketing and guru articles that unabashedly claim that now is the time for innovation. The newspapers, magazines and talking-heads on the business channels preach the religion of innovation. The theme “Innovate or Die” is pervasive and expressed in many different ways.
There are research surveys that prove that companies who increase their marketing efforts in a down economy gain significant competitive advantage in the short- and long-term. There are case studies that show companies increased their business by being aggressive in reinventing their business model.
While the research and case studies may be true, the average business decision-maker listening to these isolated success stories is not bolstered with confidence, rather he / she suffers from significantly increased stress because it is impossible to rationalize embracing the common link in all of these case studies, that of Innovation.
Innovation has been described as a change in customs; something new, and contrary to established customs, manners, or rites. What comes with Innovation is fear of the unknown, doubt of your ability to make the new thing work and a perception that the chances of failure increase exponentially. While this is true for all companies, it is especially prevalent among small- to mid-size businesses.
So what’s the answer?
The answer is MacGyvernomics (MacGyver, the science teacher, mechanic, secret agent who carried a Swiss army knife, a pack of gum and a rubber band; figured out a way to solve his problems with what was immediately around him and what was in his pocket). This is not about reinventing yourself or redefining who you are or what you do, which is the core essence of Innovation. MacGyvernomics is all about working with what you have in ways you may not have thought about. This is the essence of Ingenuity.
The British novelist, Arnold Bennett characterized Ingenuity in the following way:
“Much ingenuity with a little money is vastly more profitable… than much money without ingenuity.”
Ingenuity is the engine that small- to mid-size businesses must ride to a turnaround in these challenging economic times. The challenge is to figure out how to get on the train.
Most small-and mid-size companies are ill-equipped to conduct an unbiased assessment of their core competencies and the opportunity gaps that exist in the current marketplace. They need veterans of hard fought marketing battles to direct them through the process of assessment, discovery, planning and execution. Albert Einstein said, “You can’t solve a problem with the same logic that created it”. Assessing the strengths and weaknesses of your company through the Lens of Ingenuity, is the only way to seize opportunities that actually exists in today’s difficult economic environment.
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