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Cofounder of Fast Company magazine and bestselling author of Mavericks at Work and Practically Radical shows how true business innovation can spring from the unlikeliest places. Far away from Silicon Valley, in familiar, traditional, even unglamorous fields, ordinary people are unleashing extraordinary advances that amaze customers, energize employees, and create huge economic value. Their secret? They understand that the work of inventing the future doesn't just belong to geeks designing mobile apps and virtual-reality headsets, or to social-media entrepreneurs hoping to launch the next Facebook. Some of today's most compelling organizations are doing brilliant things in simple settings such as retail banks, office cleaning companies, department stores, small hospitals, and auto dealerships. William C. Taylor, cofounder of Fast Company and best-selling author of Practically Radical, traveled thousands of miles to visit these hotbeds of simple brilliance and unearth the principles and practices behind their success. He offers fascinating case studies and powerful lessons that you can apply to do ordinary things in extraordinary ways, regardless of your industry or profession. Consider, for instance, how... ·Miami Beach's dazzling 1111 Lincoln Road reimagined the humble parking garage as a high-profile public space that hosts weddings, yoga classes, and celebrity gatherings. ·USAA, the financial-services giant that provides soldiers and their families with insurance and banking products, inspires frontline employees to deliver legendary service by immersing them in military culture. ·Pal's Sudden Service, a fast-food chain with a cult following, serves up burgers and fries with such speed and accuracy that companies from other industries pay to learn from its astonishing discipline. ·Lincoln Electric, a manufacturer based in Euclid, Ohio, dominates its ultracompetitive markets with a fierce devotion to quality and productivity. But the key to its prosperity is a share-the-wealth model that gives everybody a sense of security and a piece of the action. It has maintained a strict no-layoff pledge since 1958. As Taylor writes: “The story of this book, its message for leaders who aim to do something important and build something great, is both simple and subversive: In a time of wrenching disruptions and exhilarating advances, of unrelenting turmoil and unlimited promise, the future is open to everybody. The thrill of breakthrough creativity and breakaway performance . . . can be summoned in all sorts of industries and all walks of life, if leaders can reimagine what’s possible in their fields.” Simply Brilliant shows you how.
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Today's most successful organizations don't just offer the best deals. They champion the most original ideas and manage to do the things other organizations don't even attempt.
In the mid-1980s, business consultants at McKinsey ＆ Co. started talking about "value propositions". Businesses could excel by having a concise and simple statement of the benefits (tangible and intangible) the company will provide matched with the price it will charge. Companies got busy explaining their value propositions and making them echo throughout their businesses.
Today, success is no longer a matter of having the right value proposition. There's just too many competitors doing the same thing. The companies which get ahead today stand out because they do things others can't or won't do to create happy customers. These companies have what is termed "lighthouse identities" – they have a distinctive point of view which they project into all their products, services and experiences.
For example, take SOL Cleaning Services which is headquartered in Helsinki, Finland. SOL cleans offices, hospitals and apartment buildings and was started in the early 1990s by Liisa Joronen.
"Our main goal is to change how cleaners work, to let them use their brains as well as their hands. The ultimate goal is to kill routine before it kills you."
Most cleaning companies have their employees clean at night when everyone has gone home but SOL insists its cleaners work during the day when offices, hospitals and labs are teeming with people. As they work, SOL employees wear bright yellow-and-red jumpsuits so they are pretty hard to miss. More importantly, all cleaners are authorized by the company to pitch new business services based on needs they observe and to cut a deal on the spot. Cleaners have become SOL's salespeople because they are on the spot using their smarts.
As a result, SOL started cleaning rooms in hospitals but now provides those same hospitals with nursing assistants who can help patients get around and who notify doctors of emergencies in the rooms. In grocery stores, SOL employees started sweeping the floors but now stock shelves and update prices. In other facilities, SOL employees have gone from cleaning to staffing the information desk and also providing security guards who conduct around-the-clock monitoring.
SOL has flourished because its employees are engaged and proud of what they do. As a result, SOL grew from 2,000 employees generating $35 million in revenue in the early 2000s to 11,300 employees and $350 million in revenue in 2015. The company now has 3,500 employees outside Finland and runs a fully fledged security service and temporary-staffing agency as well as its core cleaning services company.
Figuring out a rich and distinctive lighthouse identity sounds hard but if you look around, you'll soon notice there are lots of things your competitors are not willing to do. They may lack the resources or the imagination to match what you do or they may not be aware of what needs to happen in the background. More than likely they won't be able to match your passion and imagination so don't worry about competitors knocking off your lighthouse identity. It won't happen.
"Life is hard, work is hard, but in a service business, if you're not happy with yourself, how can you make the customer happy?"
If you aspire to achieve something extraordinary, what you believe as an organization has become as important as what you sell. Legendary tech investor John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins Caulfield ＆ Byers makes the point the most successful entrepreneurs are "missionaries" rather than "mercenaries". What's the difference?
■ Mercenaries are opportunistic. They see an opening in the marketplace and sprint to generate spectacular short-term payoffs. They worry about the pitch, the deal and financial statements. Mercenaries have a lust for making money. They are motivated by high levels of drive and ambition.
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