The development of the iPhone is the perfect intersection of innovation, speed, and courage. Those three characteristics are important for MSPs too. They have the potential to propel MSPs from being good at what they do, to being great. Those characteristics also differentiate MSPs that go-with-the-flow from those that are leading the way.

With the iPhone all of this and more is at our fingertips:

    • FaceTime
    • Every song, ever
    • Mobile check deposit
    • A high-quality camera
    • Stock trading
    • Your airplane boarding pass
    • Buying literally anything

Further, because cell phones have reached the cost curve point, even less expensive models now include the aforementioned features, which up until very recently were considered fancy bells and whistles.

You probably remember that it was early January 2007 when Steve Jobs held the media event that unleashed the iPhone. He kicked it off with this pronouncement: “Every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything.” Not exactly a statement lacking in bravado, but in hindsight, 100% on the nose.

Today, the iPhone and all of the technological advances that it ushered into our lives, are so ingrained in our habits that it feels more like 33 years than 13.

In the MSP and IT space, having comfort with innovation and speed is vital. For example, we often lead the way in cybersecurity. Now it’s time for us to start treating marketing and customer service innovation like you would treat tech innovation. We should spearhead significant developments in our client acquisition practices instead of waiting for it to happen to us.

2020 has been a year of significant change. What better time to lead the change instead of following along and waiting for more change?

Innovation

The thing about innovation is that it doesn’t just happen – it’s rarely capturing lightning in a bottle. Companies (like Apple and so many others) that innovate regularly actually plan for it. It’s an essential aspect of their culture.

We can’t silo innovation. It’s not just a software development, continuity, or CMS function. It needs to be a spirit and motivating principle throughout all of our teams. Cultivating a mindset that embraces innovation can increase productivity, profitability, and drive down costs. Are you on the lookout for the next big thing? Maybe it’s not always a big thing, but instead a series of small things that drive overall improvement.

This might take a readjustment to how you think. If time is only spent learning about what others are doing, finding a different way to examine what you see every day is vital to becoming an innovator.

It’s important to consider that innovation comes in one of two ways. The first is a concept entirely new to the market. The second is a substantial improvement to that original concept. Both are valuable and necessary.

Consider this: when Henry Ford developed the Model T, it was a giant leap – arguably the first mass-produced consumer car, combined with manufacturing innovation in the form of assembly lines. Everything we’ve seen in automobiles since has been an improvement on an original concept. But they are improvements that substantially change the way we view and use cars.

Whether it was Robert Kearns, who invented the intermittent windshield wiper, Nils Bohlin, who developed the still-standard 3-point seat belt, or Elon Musk, who brought self-driving vehicles to the consumer market, they all found a way to improve the product vastly. In other words, the introduction of the car itself is vital; the thousands of inventions that make the car safer, more pleasurable to drive, and improve the overall driving experience are also essential.

Speed

Speed is a double-edged sword. At the wrong time, moving too quickly is a surefire way to earn some blowback. We’ve all experienced this at some point.

But when it comes to innovating, it’s different. The speed with which innovation and developments are occurring, along with the impact of these society-wide technology shifts, is breathtaking. A span of 13 years from a beautiful interface for making phone calls, to technology that affects how we function daily, is impressive.

In terms of speed, this means one thing, if you aren’t prepared to act quickly on your big idea, one of your competitors will be, and you’ll be the one grabbing on to the new norm – following your rival’s lead.

Managing speed means getting comfortable moving rapidly, following your gut, and knowing your product and audience.

Courage

Having courage isn’t easy, yet, it’s the most important aspect of big ideas. We can plan for innovation, we can learn to manage speed, but without the courage to get your idea out there, nothing else matters.

This is the tough part, but so worth it. We probably all have a boneyard in our head of good ideas. Some we’ve watched someone else develop into a great product and certainly others that are untapped potential, waiting. Without courage, these ideas will just continue to knock around in our heads.

We all remember how it feels when something doesn’t work. Not every idea comes together – and that’s ok. But it’s equally important to remember that we already take risks – ALL THE TIME –  and we win. Sure, it’s usually on the tech side, but why can’t we have the same enthusiasm about taking the reins on improving our business practices?

If we start thinking differently and evaluating how we do business with fresh eyes, we’ll be flooded with ideas. Maybe only 10 percent will pan out, but if those ideas increase profitability or improve workflow, that’s a significant 10 percent. And from that 10 percent, don’t be surprised if one of your ideas is a once-in-a-lifetime idea, a change agent.

We know that growth requires discomfort, so let’s get excited about that bumpy ride, instead of fearing it.

How do you implement this into your practice?

Set aside time to think and dream. For many of us, that means opening up Outlook and blocking out time – regularly. Take the time to make notes about your ideas, develop lists, consider the necessary resources. Talk about your ideas with colleagues, both in and out of your field, and especially those who think differently than you do.

While improving what you currently do is valuable, I also encourage you to spend as much time on unconventional thinking. Grab hold of a kernel of something wholly new and develop that!

When it comes to your teams, add an agenda item to your weekly or monthly leadership meeting, and implement an innovation section in your annual business planning. Don’t forget to move innovation planning outside the realm of technology, include your marketing, customer service, finance, and even building operations teams.

When we make this type of thinking and planning the norm, you initiate a shift in the way your entire company thinks, and you encourage enterprising and audacious thinking. You’ll be surprised about the transformation you see occurring, both large and small scale.

In terms of implementation, put together the resources needed to do it well. Don’t be shy, be brave and bold.

Few of us may ever have the opportunity to make global-life-changing impacts like Elon Musk or Steve Jobs. But all of us have the chance to be like Nicole Gibbons, founder of Clare, who knew there was a different, better way to sell interior paints. And there are thousands of other entrepreneurs just like her. We should be working hard to make an impact in our space. When we make a difference for our consumers, colleagues, and even our competitors, that’s a pretty good day at the (home) office.

Photo: alphaspirit / Shutterstock

John Pojeta

Posted by John Pojeta

John researches new types of business and manages and initiates strategic, corporate-level relationships to expand exposure for The PT Services Group. John came to The PT Services Group in 2011. Before that, he owned and operated an Ameriprise Financial Services franchise for 16 years.

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