Successful companies are well-oiled machines. They are built to complete complicated tasks at scale.
Doing this requires repeatable processes and standards of operation. They ensure the experiences that you deliver achieve a certain level of quality every time, reports Forbes.
However, possessing standards is not enough. Great companies not only have standards, but are always looking to challenge and improve them. At Acceleration Partners, we call this mentality “The AP Way.”
Companies that don’t have standards and processes make too many avoidable mistakes.
However, you can’t keep doing the same thing in a changing marketplace. Over time, existing processes will become less effective and eventually will lead to stagnation. These are the companies whose reason for doing things is, “Well, that’s how we’ve always done it.”
If you ever hear people on your team using phrases like this, you know you’re headed for trouble.
This is usually not the fault of your employees. Question-and-improve mentalities are driven by your company’s culture. And that’s a product of leadership.
So how do you foster a question-and-improve mentality so that you can both ensure high standards and that you are always looking to elevate those standards?First, you need to reward and value innovation.
You can start by clearly communicating why having and following standards is important. For example, we try to show our employees how our standards make their jobs easier and ensure fewer unintended mistakes. From there, you should work to encourage a culture in which it’s safe to challenge those standards.
Ray Dalio, in his book, Principles, credits the success of Bridgewater Associates to its cultivation of an “idea meritocracy”—a form of internal government which rewards great ideas, encourages curiosity, and discourages “yes men.”
Dalio insisted upon this sort of governance because he values innovation. And he knew that companies who outwardly reward innovation end up innovating more than those who don’t––companies where executives are the only ones allowed to come up with new ideas.
Few can argue with the results: right now, Bridgewater Associates is the largest hedge fund in the world, and its model of innovation has been replicated by new leaders from Apple to Alphabet.Hire people who are intellectually curious.
Innovation doesn’t come easy, and it’s hardly ever the result of individual genius. Instead, it’s more often the product of challenging conversations and communal back-and-forth.
As such, you need to hire people who want to engage in those sorts of conversations—who want to question and improve your company’s standards.
Hiring curious people ensures that a commitment to constant innovation is embedded in your company’s DNA. Same goes for healthy debate.
At Acceleration Partners, we always take curiosity into consideration during the hiring process. We like it when our people disagree about things in a respectful way. So long as everyone on the team is aligned on the end goal, we see it as a good thing.
After all, it’s healthy debate and dialogue that often sparks the best ideas.Don’t get complacent.
It’s extremely important that companies deliver predictable results. This is what defines your brand, and your clients and customers rely on as much.
But you can’t allow consistency to fester into complacency. Complacency cannibalizes innovation and results in stagnation.
Instead, you should think of your intellectual infrastructure as software—it should operate and function consistently, but you should also be able to upgrade it regularly. The key is that everyone needs to be on the same page about an upgrade, not running different versions of the software in different areas. You move collectively from version 1.0 to 1.1.My team and I are in the midst of a similar upgrade right now with our end-of-month reporting. As a company, we’re committed to being thorough when completing these reports––but the process takes time. And recently we realized that not all of our clients read our reports.
So, rather than letting teams customize their reports, we decided to make a global change.
We added a few steps to evaluate each client’s specific needs and will offer three different choices of reports. That way, our account managers will have more differentiated levels of reporting to choose from depending on the client. However, they will be consistent and can be upgraded simultaneously over time as we learn what works and what doesn't. This will ensure that everyone benefits from innovation along the way rather than it being haphazard.
Ultimately, if you want your company to be successful, you need to be able to make these kinds of adjustments to ensure that everyone benefits from innovation and not just a few. Everyone should be asking themselves: why do we do this? How does it benefit the customer or client? How could we do it better?
If you build your company so that this sort of thinking and mindset is encouraged, incentivized, and even systematized, you can ensure that your company’s core processes never go out of date.
If you don’t? Just know that history is littered with companies who failed because they did not have a predictable outcome or had an outcome that no one wanted anymore.