When the Next Threat to Your Business Might Not Exist Yet

How do you measure innovative thought in this disruptive era? It’s about more than execution. You must always be mindful of what could be.

In these ever-changing times, innovation may be what’s changing most of all. Businesses once took their innovation cues from their customers’ needs and their competitors’ actions. Though important, those tactics are just one part of unlocking the innovative spirit in today’s marketplace.

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Successful companies study leaders in other industries, the technologies they deploy and their problem-solving techniques.

Competition is coming from all corners of the globe – and it’s not just traditional competitors who want to sneak up on you and eat your lunch. The next major threat to your business might not even exist yet.

That’s why it’s not enough to excel only at what you’re already doing. The most successful companies study leaders in other industries, the technologies they deploy and their problem-solving techniques.

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Here and Now Vs. Now and Later

The logistics landscape, for example, bears little resemblance to what we once knew. In the past, logisticians searched endlessly for incremental improvements to their daily operations, viewing problems through the prism of how they had always done things.

Such an approach won’t get you very far today. I’ve been around long enough and seen enough change in our industry to know there’s an army of potential innovators devising new and unexpected ways to send packages around the corner and around the world.

That’s plenty of motivation for our company to think as earnestly about tomorrow’s supply chains as we do the ones we use today. A long-range outlook helps us anticipate and plan for the next logistics evolution.

Our customers demand this of us – as they should. They’re asking us to examine their business models and help them solve problems. It’s a collaborative process that takes innovation to a new level.

When I first started my career more than three decades ago, customers’ instructions were relatively simple: Get my packages delivered on time. Strategy took a back seat to execution.

In the past, most innovation happened internally. Today, the opportunity is to innovate externally as well, working with customers and partners to find solutions and create value for their businesses.

Crowdsourcing Innovation

With some 435,000 UPS employees serving 220 countries and territories, we have a great opportunity to crowdsource new thinking. Every person has a unique perspective and distinct experiences and training, creating an environment ripe for innovation.

Startups are rightly praised for their nimbleness, often adjusting to and anticipating the next disruption. But large multinational corporations also have an advantage in their vast talent pools, allowing them to establish intricate learning labs of their own.

Size is no guarantee of success, but scale can magnify brainpower when utilized correctly.

How then do you promote innovative thought?

Start your day with strategy. Tactical issues will seep into your daily routine – no matter how stubbornly you try to block them. When that happens, it’s difficult to make room for innovation.

Also challenge yourself and others in every conversation to think more broadly and deeply about the problems you’re trying to solve together.

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From Idea to Action

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Creating an environment where your people are constantly thinking about a better way to do their jobs and meet customers’ needs is the key.

Creating an environment where your people are constantly thinking about a better way to do their jobs and meet customers’ needs is the key.

At UPS, we think of it as a continuous improvement platform. Given the global reach of disruption today, we have to know exactly when to change and when to stay the course.

That calculation is made easier when people have management’s support to pilot their ideas and put them into action.

To foster innovation, you need a laser focus on what could be. You can never be satisfied with the status quo. You always look for a new way to do something – better yet, find something that’s never been done before.

UPS has been delivering packages for more than a century, but we’ve recently developed two innovative services that prove there’s always room for improvement.

Nobody likes delivery notices – those slips of paper, stuck to your door, saying you missed the delivery of your package. They’re inefficient and frustrating for customers and package delivery companies alike.

We developed UPS My Choice to give consumers more control over their package deliveries and to reduce drivers’ second and third delivery attempts.

UPS My Choice members can receive their delivery notice electronically from their mobile phone or computer the day before delivery and the morning of delivery. Consumers can sign for their deliveries online, let us know where the delivery should go or even re-route and re-schedule their delivery. Nearly 24 million consumers are now enjoying the added convenience of UPS My Choice.

With more than 23,000 locations around the world, the UPS Access Point network also lets consumers pick up their packages at a nearby retailer or UPS Store. Again, it’s all about control and convenience.

I’m convinced these new services exist because the infrastructure was in place to encourage innovation.

We must keep innovation alive. It needs to be embedded in our DNA. And the only way to do that is by replacing the here-and-now mindset with a now-and-future vision. goldbrown2

This article first appeared on LinkedIn and was republished with permission.


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Alan Gershenhorn Chief Commercial Officer at UPS.

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Reprinted with permission of Longitudes, the UPS blog devoted to the trends shaping the global economy.