You probably know that innovation is a big theme with me. I read about it. I write about it. I talk about it with clients. That’s because I’m convinced that companies that don’t innovate and adapt to meet the changing needs of their customers don’t have much of a future.
I know a lot of you embrace that thinking. It’s not easy or comfortable, but you know that an attitude of “business as usual” will eventually lead to a sign that says: “Out of business!” And so you continue learning, and changing the way you do business. And I applaud you for that!
But have your clients (and potential clients) gotten the message? Sometimes clients and colleagues lock us into “boxes” and label us. We may have changed, but they don’t always see it—and they look at us the same old way. Does it really matter how people perceive you? It does if you’ve gone through some significant changes and their misperceptions keep you from being able to help them be more successful.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about.
Chris Brogan is a popular young entrepreneurial thinker and writer. He’s had a very popular blog for a number of years. He’s written business books such as Trust Agents, and The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth: Entrepreneurship for Weirdos, Misfits, and World Dominators—with endorsements from innovative business thinkers like Seth Godin and Guy Kawasaki.
But Chris had a little problem. He was very good at talking about the impact of social media and all things Internet. In fact, the subtitle of his Trust Agents book was Using the Web to build influence, improve reputation, and earn trust. What happened is that Chris got labeled as a kind of Internet/Social Media guru.
You might not think that’s a huge deal. The problem is that Chris was more of an entrepreneur than he was a social media guy. But his success in addressing the Internet and social media pigeonholed him a bit. To be honest, he really didn’t care all that much about technology. What he cared about was helping businesses grow. Technology was just one tool for making that happen.
Chris had to aggressively change people’s perception of him—in his speaking, and in his writing. He didn’t hate technology, but it was simply too restrictive to just talk about that. He had moved beyond that and wanted to help businesses think more broadly about being entrepreneurial and innovative—not just from a technological perspective.
How about you? How do your clients view you? Maybe you’ve had some successes in the past that have caused your clients to think of you in one context only? But maybe you’ve moved on to develop other skills and insights that can help them. Is a past success keeping you from even greater future success?
I know that some of what I’ve learned over the years is still as valid today as it was when I learned it. But I also know that I’m learning things today that I never would have dreamed of just a few years ago. And it’s some of those new things that can make the most significant impact in an ever-changing business environment.