Anyone who says innovation is dead is clearly not following what is happening in the world today. Not only is innovation alive, it is thriving, and apparently it is also well funded. The question is, in this fast paced world of technological leaps and bounds, how does the small business owner stay current? How do we find a corner in a competitive marketplace filled with cheaper and faster options? Ever since I was a child, I loved to solve problems, and it all started with games. The game I played with my dad? Triple digit multiplication tables in our heads while we sat on the porch in the summer sun. My mom and I used to play Games Magazine puzzles until we pulled our hair out. It was fun and it was challenging, but the challenge was the fun. These days, I can't even find a Games Magazine and calculators have pretty much made mental math obsolete. Why do I bring this up? Because, challenges are the seeds of innovations. Any business or product concept that solves a current problem is bound to be a good one. Just look at this indiegogo video from TechCrunch at this years CES 2105 only a week ago. These guys are making millions from simple ideas that solve little problems people didn't even realize they had.
So what is really happening here?
UBER is practically replacing regular taxi companies. AMAZON is killing local retail stores. NETFLIX and AMAZON produced TV shows that just last night won top prizes at this years Golden Globes!!! And just as many small business owners run away and are run out of business by these technological innovations, there are thousands more popping up every day seizing their slice of the pie with a new found innovation. So how can we keep up?
Innovation Starts NOW
We cannot force change and, at the same time, resistance to change is futile. The answers to these difficult questions are all reflected in nature. Whenever there is a need, an organism fills the need. Whenever there is an imbalance, something rushes to fill the void and create the balance. So here is your task.
Take a moment today, and every day, and sit in a comfortable place with no distractions. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. As you exhale, feel yourself getting further and further away from all your daily chores and duties. Feel your business and life receding in the distance as if you are blasting off in a space ship leaving your house and your work and your life behind. As you turn around and look back at yourself now from the outside, notice what may be imbalanced and what may be lacking. Are you avoiding something that has been nagging you? Are you ignoring something that you know needs your attention? You life and your business is like a tiny ecosystem that is intrinsically connected to the larger ecosystems that create our economy. What is not flowing and how can you get it to flow again? Take a few minutes to face your challenges and see them as opportunities for innovation. Become the wide-eyed, curious and inspired child anxious to solve the problems and win the game, and innovation is born.
Do not fool yourself into thinking that it is NOT possible or that you CANNOT be innovative. You are the seed of original thought. You can do it and you will! Just go out there and solve the problems that you face with a smile on your face. You will see! Right now, you are creating something truly magnificent.
It is official now. We are all online. Even this remote Himilayan Monk climbed up to the highest rock so that he could get a good wifi signal. And as we move forward into the age of technology, how can we maintain the wisdom of the sages?
Here are 6 possible New Year's Resolutions for the Enlightened Businesses of 2015.
1. Cultivate Presence at Work
I am a firm believer in the power of morning meditation. This is especially true for entrepreneurs and small business owners as the demands of the day can often get overwhelming. All it takes is fifteen minutes a day to sit in a comfortable location and breathe with your eyes closed. I tend to use a Vipassana style meditation technique to observe things as they are, but any technique that helps you to get present for that moment will help.
Then throughout the day, use the simple breathing technique whenever you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed or anxious about a decision or a project. One simple breath can really help to balance your energy and bring you back to your center. Presence and Mindfulness not only help us stay healthy in a higher stress environment, but they also increase our productivity and effectiveness.
2. Learn to Say No
I have spent many years in service and dedicated to helping people around me. One of the hardest things for me to learn how to do over the years was saying no. Often times, I found myself agreeing to terms and conditions that I didn't feel 100% percent about or going the extra mile for a client when it felt a little bit out of balance. The first time I denied a new client, I was amazed at the feeling of liberation that it gave me. I realized that I did not have to say yes all the time and accept conditions that were not optimal.
The same can be said for all aspects of your work relationships. Not every client, employee, partner or project is in alignment with you or your company. Saying no is often the most loving and thoughtful thing that you can do. Boundaries are healthy and necessary for maintaining a productive and comfortable workplace and life.
3. Stay Tuned In to your Passion
It's is always important to remember what it is that you are working for. Is it some creative ambition, family, love, knowledge or service? Why did you get involved in this in the first place? Sometimes people confuse the idea of "Passion" with the idea of "Goals". For example, if you find yourself saying, "My passion is to make alot of money," then you have probably lost touch with your true passion.
Finding and recalling your passion each day will help you to find inspiration which is a phenomenal motivator. If you are feeling lethargic in the morning or have a hard time getting out of bed and getting to work, it may be because you are lacking the passion. Those who are passionate and inspired about their lives and their work and their job will have more energy and more overall motivation.
4. Create Collaborative Models
Nature is an incredible model for business that is often overlooked. Ideas of Biomimicry and Economics of Nature have been around for a few decades and yet still people tend to forget their application to business. In nature, many organisms live in what is called symbiotic harmony. In fact, it is true that without a certain micro-organism that lives on our skin, we would get severe sunburn every time we walked out of the shadows. These kind of organisms need us to survive just as we need them.
The same is true in Business, if you want to survive as a small business, look for ways that you can support the other small businesses in your community. When an opportunity arrises for a trade or a collaboration, take it. Cultivating these kinds of relationships create a lasting foundation for your business to prosper. In any situation, there is always a win-win scenario that can truly benefit all parties involved.
5. Take the Time to Work on your Business
Working on your business and working in your business are two different things. Most small businesses and entrepreneurs create a product or a service that comes very naturally for them. Often times it is easier to get swept up in the day to day production of the company rather than looking at the larger picture. As such, many times we because cogs in the machine that we created rather than the machinist. The business machine that you built and are currently running is not just a series of brilliant cranks and levers and wheels. To keep the machine running optimally, it is vital to fine tune the machine as a whole.
As Michael Gerber mentions in his Emyth books, a great resource for any entrepreneur, take the time to look at the larger picture of what you are creating. How can you get more production for less money? How can you optimize the lead generation process? How can you create more swift invoicing processes and homogenize the communications within the company? How can you make this business even more efficient? This year, take the time each week, or even each day, to take a step back and look at what you are creating. How can it be better?
6. Leave Room for Innovation
If it works, don't fix it. Yeah that is true, but that can also be economic suicide in a marketplace driven by innovation and technology. Many times, business owners find a certain groove in their day that works. You might think to yourself, "This is just how I do it because that is how I do it, and I am not changing that!" This kind of stubborn mentality can be very beneficial when you are starting off and everyone is trying to steer you in a thousand other directions, but once you do find your rhythm, it is vital to remain open to innovation.
There are tools being created every day that can speed up all the processes of your business. We can help you with many technological innovations from social media integration and automatic emails to mobile apps and online software that makes you look really pro for less money. We have seen things that work and things that don't, but we are always open to new suggestions and possibilities. Innovation is really the cornerstone for creating enlightened businesses that will thrive into the next generation.
It's happening with everyone from the big business financiers to the monk with the mac book pro, so let's all help each other have the best year yet.