Growing a business isn’t easy. In my last article I talked about the concept of marginal gains and growing by making small adjustments in multiple areas to benefit from cumulative results. Maybe that is easier said than done. How do you find ways to do things better?

One option is to check out our competitors for ideas but, whilst it’s important to know how we compare, just copying them will cost us our differentiation. So today I’m going to suggest that the improvements that you are looking for may well be found outside your own industry.

Some examples of learning from others.

The efficiency of the formula 1 pit stop has inspired a number of other industries. For example, pharmaceutical company GSK used what they learned to make improvements in a toothpaste factory which allowed them to produce an extra seven million tubes of toothpaste annually at no extra cost.

When Apple was launching its first stores it took a look at other organisations that were providing an outstanding customer experience. Apple then sent its soon to be store managers for training on Ritz-Carlton’s hospitality and leadership programme. Those people came back buzzing with ideas which led to innovations in Apple’s offer.

There are numerous innovations that have been derived from space exploration. They vary from food to artificial limbs and lots more besides. You can read about a few of them here

‘But I’m a micro business, I don’t have a team like formula 1 or Apple’, I hear you cry. Just because we run tiny businesses does not mean we can’t adapt ideas from others. The formula one pit stop works because it is a well-rehearsed process. Processes can make any size of business more efficient.  The innovations at Apple came from thinking about the ‘unidentified wishes’ of customers. We can all focus on anticipating customer wishes and how to delight them.

How can we apply lessons from other industries to our businesses?

Sometimes the lessons are about stimulating our thought processes. Sometimes they can provide us with a new technological innovation. Sometimes it can be about the way we deliver our services. Here are some of the areas where inspiration from outside our own sector might help:

  • Developing our vision and strategy
  • Product innovations
  • Systems and processes
  • Use of technology
  • Service delivery
  • Marketing activities
  • Mindset and the environment for success

So where will you look for inspiration to make those marginal or greater gains?

How does it work?

We can learn so much by watching what others do.

You could start by looking at some of the big names in business, sport or the media for example. However you will often find your thought processes stimulated by your everyday experiences. Perhaps you spot an innovative use of technology that you could adapt for your customers. Maybe you find yourself responding to some clever marketing that you could rework in your business. Sometimes it’s a negative experience that inspires us to put our own house in order. Whatever the inspiration find a way to take a note so that you don’t forget the detail when you have time to apply the lesson. Take a photo on your smartphone, record a memo or take a note or, if you want to be really up to date, record a Facebook live video but do take care not to be libellous or defamatory!

Taking action

Which aspect of your business are you going to look at first? I’m currently looking at my customer journey map to develop the systems and processes that will enable me to use help effectively to grow my business and I’m doing the same for some clients. I’ll share some of the things we’re looking at in my next post.

In the meantime if you would like to look for inspiration and support from outside your own business why not join my free Facebook group You will be very welcome whatever age you are and at whatever stage in business you’ve reached.