photo by Christopher SardegnaFor me, 2016 highlighted some important things about how we think.

It was amazing how much energy and attention was put into the presidential election. It consumed every waking moment, as if aliens had landed on the planet.

The fact is that government does what it does. Sometimes it affects what we do in our businesses, but mostly other things are far more important. Like customers. And employees.

So now that the circus is over (or, I guess, going into its next stage), let’s get back to focusing on the important stuff.

  • Are we satisfying our customers as much as we used to?
  • Are our employees motivated and focused, with all the appropriate tools at their disposal?
  • What’s the next innovation that’s going to grab our customers away?
  • Where will unexpected competition come from?

These questions are more answerable than you might think. The important thing is that you don’t have to get the answers right: It’s the thinking process which is important here.

For instance, suppose that we have a small business which sells high-tech jewelry online. We’re pondering where unexpected competitors might crop up. In thinking through this, we observe:

  • The product itself can be copied pretty easily, so what’s going to keep us ahead is our unique sense of design and creative marketing. Those are critical investments for us.
  • Our customers don’t seem to be overly price sensitive, so it’s unlikely that someone else will beat us just by lowering the cost. It’s about emotional engagement and uniqueness.
  • Social media is changing constantly, and we’ve created much of our success that way so far. We’d better commit to staying on the leading edge there.
  • Competitors could be anywhere in the country, probably even the world. So we’d better pay attention to global innovators and not get complacent just because we’re doing well in the local market. For most of our products, customers don’t really care where they come from.

Does this predict the future? Not very well, and we could be wrong. But it gives us some very specific things to work on which will likely build future success.

Are you focusing on what’s important to YOUR business?

This article was first published in InnovatioNews.