4 Ideas For Innovation in Old-School Industries





These are just three of the many companies who died because they did not adapt.


With the advent of Netflix, Blockbuster became hopelessly outdated with it’s old-school DVD rentals. An exceptional commercialised camera company, Kodak was not ready for digital and as a result, could not survive. Sears, a household name in its peak years, was left eating dust when Walmart and Amazon gobbled the turf.


None of these great names sustained innovation – how about your company? Will it be the next on the list of great companies that did not survive because of an old-school mentality?


Get back in the game with these four ideas to get the edge back:

#1: Shake up company culture

Every group of people – including your company – develops its own culture; the group takes on a personality of its own, and without a voice, broadcasts loudly to new employees that “this is how we do things around here”.


The problem is that culture develops either by design, or by default.


Its safe to say that in old-school industries, organisational culture is built by default: instead of developing according to a plan, it just happens.


And if your business wants innovation – and it should – then that needs to change.


But why address company culture in the first place? Well, companies are made up of people. When old-school thinking pervades a company through its workforce, you can be sure that innovation is not a word that reigns.


In addition, it is guaranteed that a company that lacks innovative thinking is not the type of company that’s going to attract top talent (which is a whole new topic on it’s own…)


For a host of various reasons, company culture impacts your bottom line.

#2: Hire millenials

It’s got to be said, and it may sound brutal, but its truth: old-school industries are made up of old-school thinkers.


If your organisation is starting to hanker after innovation, the old has got to go and the new has to come in.


As the older workforce retires, they’ve got to be replaced, and who better than with the younger generation?


But…this is far easier said than done, because to attract the younger generation – aka millenials – the organisational culture has to be one that is appealing to them, because the younger generation – those between the ages of 18 – 25, more than any generation before them, value culture above all else.


And so the company would need to pay attention first to things like culture and internal branding and engagement, before attempting to hook millenials who would drive innovation.

#3: Revisit procedures

Its typical of old-school type companies to consist of processes and procedures that were developed yesteryear and which have become grossly outdated.


These outdated procedures are generally cumbersome and use old and outdated technology, or even worse, consist of too many manual and resource-heavy processes.


Outdated procedures do not encourage innovation, and should be one of the first areas to be overhauled.


In conjunction with revisiting procedures, the technology used for carrying out tasks should be re-looked at too, and we’ll get to this in the next section.


Here are some tips for revising procedures:


  1. Before attending to processes and procedures, pay attention first to the organisation’s vision and mission, followed by the desired culture to reach objectives. Let the new culture drive the processes and procedures.

Image Credit: Bridgespan


Company culture needs to drive processes and procedures.


  1. Carefully consider where you house procedures – avoid making manuals and rather document processes and procedures on a web-based collaboration system, where they can be accessed by anyone with sharing rights. These documents need to drive operations and so they need to be active, not dead and buried in a filing cabinet.
  2. Eliminate any unnecessary tasks and consider how to automate and streamline as much as possible. Find out what technology will enable you to cut costs and remove as much of the repetitive tasks as possible.

#4: Look for new technology

Just about any task can be automated with technology, so while revisiting how you do things, it is suggested your team brainstorm ways to eliminate any unnecessary tasks. Allow them to think completely out of the box, and then to look for technology to enable their ideas.


Avoid selecting software before seeing the big picture of how everything works together.


While revamping the organisation’s processes and procedures, check how technology can be updated by:


  • Considering the needs of each process
  • Conducting research and checking into reviews of software options
  • Requesting advice from technology companies
  • Making sure all technology can integrate with each other
  • Encouraging all team members to provide feedback and ideas
  • Being sure to keep channels of communication open, so that no-one in the organisation feels threatened, as the majority of people are resistant to change



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