Make a point to always challenge the status quo
One key to success I’ve learned in my career is to never stop challenging the status quo. Show me an organization where the stock answer to “why?” is “we’ve always done it that way”, and I’ll show you an organization that is going to be left behind by competitors who are more innovative.
Consider the window washers at the University of Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital. If you’re not familiar, the window washers from Allegheny Window Cleaning rappelled down the front of the building dressed as super heroes. Imagine the children in their hospital rooms — likely scared, away from home, uncertain as to what might be next. And then they see Spiderman and Superman in their windows. This case study serves as a reminder that sometimes the smallest actions can make the biggest difference.
It is a great example of “everyday innovation.” How do organizations constantly challenge everyday routines, tackle everyday business problems, in order to not only do their job but also to create an environment where their tasks are meaningful? The window washers at the Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh are a model for us all, and show that we all face the same challenges with routine tasks, and sometimes success means trying new things in order to differentiate our services and be relevant to our audiences.
Consider the 1980’s television show “MacGyver.” The MacGyver character was resourceful and continuously solved complex, seemingly impossible, problems with nothing but ordinary objects and his Swiss Army knife. MacGyver serves as a business lesson to us all — do you act, or do you react? He serves as a reminder that success means working with the tools you have at your disposal, and to focus on the opportunities rather than focusing on the risk.
One last example of challenging the status quo is the planned obsolescence of products used by software companies. Imagine being in the conference room and being the brave associate who suggested that the best way to grow the business would be to create a business plan designed around putting your product out of business. “Boss, I have an idea. We can build a product and then immediately work on making it obsolete.”
What do these examples have in common? Window washers dressed up as super heroes, MacGyver and planned obsolescence are examples of working to change the status quo with simple twists, with everyday items, and by thinking a bit differently to solve business problems.
They each accomplished a holy grail of business: changing best practices to next practices. Best practices, after all, are best for a reason. There’s nothing wrong with learning about and comparing different approaches to solving problems in order to satisfy business requirements. Following best practices can help you avoid mistakes that others have made.
But best practices can be limiting. They are inherently backwards looking and in our ever-changing world, today’s best practices can be tomorrow’s status quo. In contrast, next practices challenge the status quo. Next practices do what best practices never can – which is finding a better way to do something, a better solution to a problem, not by implementing things the rest of your industry does, but by introducing new ways to handle business challenges.
It’s really about challenging the status quo in an ongoing effort to find ways to better satisfy your customers and accomplish your mission. Everyday innovation is a way of thinking that can allow organizations to achieve more than they might have thought possible.
We work hard at Vail Valley Partnership to challenge the status quo of what it means to be a successful chamber of commerce. Much like the super hero window washers, we try to make things better through our everyday work. Much like MacGyver, we work with the resources at our disposal to create innovative solutions. Much like software engineers and planned obsolescence, we work to constantly improve upon our programs and member benefits.
This culture of challenging the status quo and always thinking about how we can improve has resulted in a variety of great programs available to our members. We will continue to push the status quo and to work tirelessly to make our members and stakeholders proud of the organization, our benefits, and our programming.
As an added bonus, we are receiving national recognition for our chamber programming and member benefits, which helps put our region on the map as a place where successful businesses reside. In fact, the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives recognized Vail Valley Partnership as a 2015 finalist and as the 2016 Chamber of the Year. This is the top international honor for chamber organizations, and one that we would never receive if we just did things the way they’ve always been done.
Chris Romer is president & CEO of Vail Valley Partnership. Learn more at VailValleyPartnership.com.