Who are your top business heroes? Steve Jobs, perhaps? Tony Hsieh, who sold his company Zappos to Amazon for $1.2 billion? Honest Tea, a small local company committed to real tea (now Fair Trade Certified) that has become a national brand?
I believe that these people have one particular trait in common. They never, ever said "We always do it that way." Six simple words, too often used to stop innovation, imagination and risky choices from becoming trailblazing, explosive-growth business efforts.
I love imagining the meeting at which Tony Hsieh said to his executive team "I think we need to not charge for shipping, both for purchases and for returns." Jaws dropped open, eyes bulged, and people spluttered "but, but...everyone charges for shipping." Tony must have nodded and then said "We're not going to be everyone." Free shipping began, as part of the the stragtegy of "selling happiness," and the market loved it.
My clients say they are eager to stand out from their competition and yet these 6 words so often hold them back. I advise them that they need to put the audience first and not start a speech with a thank you and a corporate overview. They respond "we always do it that way." Or worse, "everyone else does it that way."
If you do everything the way you've always done it, you will devalue your company and fail to grow. The biggest outcome of doing everything the way you've always done it and the way everyone else does it is that you put yourself in the commodity category. Commodities are readily available products or services for which there is no differentiation. One is as good as another. And someone will always lower their price. You are sunk if that is your revenue strategy: we're a commodity.
Send the message out, repeatedly and to everyone in every setting, that your company does not stick with "we always do it that way." Along with saying this, you must also show it in your own behavior. Step in front of your audiences, internal or external, and begin with an attention-getting opening that the audience has never heard before. They will be captivated. They will also begin to try it themselves. The more you model this new mind-set (also 6 words) "we differentiate and we stand out" the more your colleagues will do it too.
Whenever anyone uses "we always do it that way" as a reason for something, don't accept that. Ask them how they could do it differently and give them opportunities to put into practice the 6 new words: "we differentiate and we stand out."