If it isn’t broke don’t mend it!

It was interesting to note that there is much opposition to this phrase when you search the Internet about its relevance to business. The key word today seems to be to innovate.

In reality, this philosophy seems to indicate that if you don’t keep changing then you will go under. However, this mantra can have as big a damaging effect on businesses as not changing if one is not careful.

In a world where technology seems to be the answer to life, the world and everything, (a university has recently proved that the answer is indeed 42!) it is interesting to reflect on how consistency can be a better answer for some.

Clearly there are some things that we expect to stay the same, as the constant image is key to the success of the venture. I am sure that afternoon tea at the Ritz would soon lose its appeal if it were replaced by self-service vending machines.

More recently, it was interesting to note that a supermarket that introduced a self-scanning application to save the use of checkout desks, had to replace the checkouts. Apparently the people preferred to queue at the Helpdesk to get items scanned. As one person put it ‘you don’t pay me to work here!’

I also find it interesting that Kellogg’s cereal, Rice Krispies, first used the slogan ‘Snap, Crackle and Pop’ in the 1920’s. Clearly they didn’t see the need to innovate with a new slogan as the existing one is still working.

Recently I returned to the United Kingdom and had the pleasure to meet with an entrepreneur that I mentored over 13 years ago as an unemployed young man. He may have enlarged his product line and added to outlets, but he has stayed true to his business model and now turns over nearly £8million a year. Not bad from unemployed to now.

Equally, another entrepreneur that I worked with around the same time is also continuing her jewellery business. The nature based design for her work remains her inspiration. However, from pieces that once cost £35 and were sold locally, she has progressed to pieces that are sold worldwide for as much as £16,000.

No one is saying that businesses today should not innovate, provided that they do so in a controlled and thought out way. Why didn’t the supermarket poll their customers before launching their store without checkouts?

Why do businesses assume that everyone wants to communicate through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or some other social media platform? Moreover, the key is in the words SOCIAL MEDIA. No one called it business media and it is likely to irritate rather than inform if businesses gate-crash people’s social media.

Innovation is fine provided that it is approached in the right way. Ideally, the use of technology should be transparent to the customer if it is used to improve the customer experience. People want to enjoy the improvement without having to know what you put under the bonnet.

Where innovation does involve the customer, then the old rules of market research should be employed before the innovation is implemented. I am sure that if this had been done in the case of the supermarket then they would have introduced the concept differently and possibly with a phased approach.

So, businesses should always look to improve their offering, but should also remember that if innovation means change for the client it is a good idea to ask them first. It also means that if the innovation is one that is under the bonnet then most customers don’t need to know.

In business as in everything else in life, potential changes will appear. However, just because it is different doesn’t make it better. Be aware that the effect of change that is brought about through slavish pursuit of technology is similar to investing in stocks and shares; the value of your investment can go up or down

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