Learnings from Iterating Our Business
Change is Inevitable. Progress is Not.
Every business experiences change, but not every business will experience progress.
Progress is the result of strategic efforts made by businesses to refine who they are, what they do, and why they exist. Progress takes focused effort and commitment to meaningful iteration over time. Accidental progress (i.e., reactive happenstance) may occur from time to time, but the kind of progress that elevates business at its core requires strategic building.
Our company, Ideation, recently went through another cycle of iterations over this past year that has refined our business design. We originally started the business in 2009 as a branding firm that delivered brand strategy and related design deliverables. During the first 3 years, we tried lots of different creative service deliverables in order to find an emergent product or service that would distinguish us from our competition. We worked on everything from developing processes for extending brands, product innovation, network & partnership strategy, integrated marketing, event production, app & platform development, and whole list of other services. We knew early on that distinctiveness in offering would require a significant volume of work to “find ourselves” as a company.
In 2013, we entered our second cycle of iteration as a company. As we reflected on the various types of projects and clients we had engaged over the first 3 years, it was clear that a thread began to emerge that highlighted our core competency. Our uniqueness was rooted in our ability to move complex ideas, plans, and visions into a strategic pathways for day-to-day execution. We saw a clear opportunity to bridge the world of strategy with the world of creative execution. We had developed turnkey processes and pathways to steward and project manage ideas from inspiration to implementation. We were fortunate to have on our team experienced strategy consultants, talented creatives, and strong project managers. So, we began to tell the story of idea-execution as service.
While we were gaining clarity internally within our company about who were and what we were providing, it was still difficult for many outside our company to create a new category of business outside of traditional consulting groups and creative agencies. We were neither, but kind of both. Our premise was that effective execution requires skill sets from both worlds. Nevertheless, it was not easy to communicate. The struggle continued to iterate forward.
Seeking Advice & Wisdom
In 2015, I decided to invest in seeking wisdom from mentors and those who I have admired from a distance. Learning has always been a big value of our company, but I needed make a personal commitment to grow as the founder. I started to reach out to people I knew and some I didn’t to see if they might be consider contributing to the success of our company. Yes, I called in some favors. I also started taking courses online to further refine our business model and future direction. As a result, in late 2015, we were able to identify what our next iteration of our company would possibly look like.
It became clear to us as we learned from others and gathered input that we were creating a new category of business. Could this be a disruptive innovation (borrowing the words of Clayton Christensen)? Maybe. We’ll see.
We identified a void that exists between the work of large consulting firms and the large creative agencies that work with leading brands. Executives needed help in translating what strategic plans meant for their respective business units and creative support to better execute on their ideas, whether internal or external facing. Many lacked the strategic and creative support needed to ideate and execute on innovation concepts. We discovered that our type of company was a perfect fit for this level of engagement and execution. We didn’t have to become a large strategy firm nor a large creative agency. We needed to focus our attention on mixing strategy AND creative to help executives refine and implement their ideas. It was a simple idea yet we didn’t see too many other companies in this space go for this opportunity. Most were either individual consultants who didn’t have a creative support team or large entities that couldn’t or wouldn’t engage at this low end. For us, we had found our niche. We exist to help executives refine and implement their ideas with creative support. Word has spread quickly about our work because we’ve found a tribe that needs what we do.
Our latest iteration as a company has focused us in a way that we’ve been looking for over the past 6.5 years of existence. While I know this is not the last iteration, it’s clear that we would not be where we are without a commitment to iterating progress.
Questions to Consider for Your Business
- How does your organization iterate itself?
- What are some intentional things you could do to iterate forward whether as an individual, team, or company?
- Who do you learn from and how do you learn best? Is your learning diverse?
- How do you record your progress?
Let’s keep moving forward friends. Our future versions of our companies can be much better than anything we can imagine today.
Dream Big. Start Small. Keep Moving.