3 Innovations from the Americas Cup Apply what the Oracle Team has learned to your businessChia-Li Chien
Chia-Li Chien | Nov. 27, 2013
Recently, while watching an episode of Nova on “making stuff faster” on PBS, my ears perked up when I heard the narrator say, “Civilization was built on the human drive to invent.”
This comment helped answer a question I’ve always had: “How did anyone ever know about the need to invent fire?”
It was human drive, curiosity and innovation. That’s all—and that’s everything.
The narrator went on to surmise that the need for speed drives innovation. Hmmm. What do you think about that? It’s certainly a faster world than it was even just a decade ago. And for the most part, that speed has benefited our lifestyles and business. My husband gets annoyed with me when I’m sure a website is “broken” when it doesn’t respond in a nano-second. The need for speed creates the desire for speed creates the expectation for speed.
Still, what about innovation?
The process of innovation can be long. What seems to be a sudden, a-ha moment has most likely, in fact, been the result of months or years of research, teamwork, creative process and blood, sweat and tears. The Americas Cup Oracle Team is a great example of this.
When you look at the Oracle craft, you realize quickly that while it may look like a sailboat, it really is not. That’s because in order to win, the team (engineers, investors and crew) had to focus on 1) Increasing energy (the wind) and 2) Decreasing resistance (the water). Are you with me so far?
To maximize the energy of the boat, the engineers focused on the sails, which always had been traditionally made of some type of fabric. As they examined the function of fabric sails, they realized that the folds in the fabric could form wind tunnels, and slow the boat down. They realized, you might say, that the business model was going to require a total innovation.
The resulting solution? A lightweight carbon “sail’ that is really more like a featherweight wing. No folds mean maximum energy. The problem became an innovation.
And what of the resistance? The engineers took another look at the traditional shape of the bottom of the sailboat and realized to minimize the resistance of the water they would have to increase the lift—so that the boat is actually now flying on top of the water. Pretty cool.
To succeed once these changes were implemented, the Oracle Team crew would have to be able to sail the boat at ultimate speed, safely to the finish, and win the Americas Cup.
Apply the Oracle Team’s principles to your business
Your ultimate business goal, you might say, is safety (minimizing risk) and winning (reaching your definition of business success). Through your aligned and innovated business model, you can find the energy your business requires to focus on what builds your business value.
Think about it. If we go back to the principle that speed drives innovation, and the changes just that one principle brings, doesn’t it just seem logical that, of course, you are going to have to refresh and innovate your business model—change your products, your customer service process, order fulfillment, etc.
Yes, things change, like sailboats now flying on instead of sailing on the water, so shouldn’t we expect to have to change our business, too?
What holds your business back? Probably not water, but there’s a good chance expenses do.
I recently worked with a client whose customers were leaving the company’s ordering process due to the products they wanted not being available. And, those same customers seldom added to their order once they found the product they wanted. They simply put it in the cart, checked out and were gone.
The sales volumes were stagnant or declining, but the company expenses remained the same, or were at times, higher than projected. The expenses were set for a sales volume that wasn’t there. And from what I could tell as an outsider looking in, the company was not leveraging its people, processes or efficiencies.
The key, for this company to turn its expenses around and therefore, decrease the resistance, was to innovate a forecasting system to ensure that what their customers wanted was always available. AND, to maximize the expense of filling those orders, the company needed to be able to anticipate what the customer wanted even before the customer knew he or she wanted it. They needed to offer items the customer would want to add to the order. Decreasing resistance to the sale maximized expenses and increased the ROI on each order.
Improve your underlying processes on a regular basis and stay in control of expenses to reduce resistance.
The engineers and investors of the Oracle Team have been able to put together a crew that has the capabilities to handle and adjust to any situation. We all have employees resistant to change, making the need for quick adjustment, assessment and flexibility even more difficult. I guarantee you this person is not on the Oracle Team.
“Yeah, but I can’t really afford the level of talent it takes to create an Oracle Team,” you may tell me. I understand. Top tier talent is hard to get and keep. However, what if you turned around the team you already have? It’s possible.
Seek out the people on your team who are not only willing to work well with others and contribute, but also WANT to succeed in those areas and beyond. Invest in those people with training, motivation and sales force innovations.
Find out and recognize your people’s career goals, and help them move in the direction of fulfilling those goals—at your company.
It’s a win-win for your team and your company, and a surefire way to reach the finish line safely and with speed.
Investing in your team will help you take home the winners cup and celebrate the victory, enabling you to look across the water and attain the success and goals you envision.