Just getting started…

(guest post)

I finally made it. My mother is so proud.
Everyone knows the name of my company,
A family behemoth where I am, finally,
At the top of the heap.

Twenty three years. That’s what it took to get here.
And I remember year one – I was just a kid.
I remember that kid saying things like ‘I can fix this!’ or ‘Let’s try this!’
But no one would listen; and that was a good thing.

I was naïve then, and I was loud.
But by the time I wasn’t naïve, I was too scared to be loud.
I went from eager and full of ideas to status quo.
I don’t know how that happened.

Somewhere I got on a road to the middle.
Middle Management, Middle Class, Middle Minded.
Money was easy: Update a package, film a commercial,
Tweak a product and call it ‘new.’

And that worked for a while.
But our market share is shrinking.
Tiny innovators have fought their way to our shelves.
They are unique, and wanted, and make us look like… well, a commodity company.

We strive to innovate too, because we’re so very cool.
But we end up buying competitors to embrace the new.
We give our new friends the channels to succeed;
But then they are like us, wondering how to build something new.

Tweaking a product doesn’t make it different.
Re-packaging a brand doesn’t make it fresh.
Adding an ingredient or a do-dad isn’t… innovation.

Innovation solves problems. People problems.
We stopped knowing The People a long time ago.

Our partners tell us we are turning a corner,
While they cash our checks and watch us sink.
10’s of millions spent on How to innovate.
But there’s been nothing new in 20 years.

But there will be; ‘cause now I’m at the top.
I want to be loud, and brash, and mean what I say.
I want to make great things that People love.

I think I know a way.
Others are doing it. My friends are doing it.
I think I’ve mustered the courage to try.

My plan isn’t a fad, or a trend, and it isn’t high tech.
But it will rock the boat.
It will change the way we think.
It will put our customer in a seat next to mine.

The plan is simple, and off-putting to the Middle.
But the best things in the world are simple.
For in the end, there is just one metric,
The People. They pay all our bills in the end.

We need to Listen – to The People.
We need fresh eyes – studying The People.
Then we need to take what we learn and Design.
Design products The People want, what they’ve asked for; what they’ll love.

No more Fortune-type focus groups or white-board guesses.
We need to get out there.
We need to mingle with The People who pay all our bills.

Now is the time for me to lead and be loud, but I can’t be naïve.
Change here will entail risk, maybe even cause pain.
But pain is already upon us, and this is the way out.

I need to meet my People, my customer.
I need to give her what she wants.
It’s just that simple.

Today I start Listening.
Tomorrow I start Designing.
Then I will deliver what People love.

Hold your Pride mom, I’m just getting started.

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