The phrase ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ probably came from a time when machines were bigger and clunkier than they are now. Expensive to repair or overhaul. Able to compromise on performance but still function. So, letting them run was often a prudent course of action.
But fast forward eighty years and we still find people in business who like to use that expression. Often couched as a warning against disaster, and accompanied by a slow head shake. They believe that if something is functioning well enough, changing or interfering with it may introduce new problems as a result. Contrast that with the number of companies whose values include the word ‘innovation’!
When business leaders write innovation into their strategies, they are usually hoping for some kind of seismic change and they’re often disappointed. That’s because organisations are not good at creating conditions that encourage real creativity or instilling a disciplined approach to execution.
When you’re working to transform an organisational culture it is better to begin by aiming for a continuous ripple of small changes. The kind of evolutionary change that Gemba Kaizen – the Japanese approach to continuous improvement – produces in workplaces that have processes. Small changes work equally well in service or manufacturing businesses, in public or private sectors. A culture that celebrates small changes gives employees permission to try new things. Then bigger initiatives, requiring true innovation, become more possible.
When you are trying to build a branded business, the ‘ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ attitude is really counter-productive. Brands exist out there in the market, in the hearts and minds of consumers. Few brand owners invest enough in regular market research to understand how those perceptions are changing. Instead they work to grow their businesses based on doing ‘more of what we know we can do.’
The term ‘one stop shop” is a product of this thinking. The phrase originated in the late 1920’s as a positioning strategy for an automotive repair store. At the time auto parts, repairs and sales were separate businesses, requiring customers to visit two or more stores. Bringing parts and services together in one business was a paradigm shift that created a huge value proposition for customers. But these days a once-brilliant tagline has become a cliché. Customers generally don’t believe that brands can be great at delivering broad offerings.
If your business has a clear purpose, you’ll find it easier to keep your innovation relevant. Combine that with an internal culture of self-improvement, and you’ll evolve your business in ways that customers will understand and appreciate.