Why would you want to enter the high-technology world when all you have ever known is low-technology (or no technology) rust-belt products? Because the high-technology world is where all the money is. The manufacturing space is becoming increasingly sophisticated, and if you are not on that bus, you will be left behind. Sophisticated high-technology manufacturers will rule the industrial world and will only leave table scraps for those in the Rust Belt. As a result, the rust-belt businesses will go under, as they can never match the cost structure of the less developed countries.
So, if you want to survive in the new world, you need to totally transform your company from rust-belt to high-tech. This is a three-part process. And it must be undertaken in the following order:
The foundational step that paves the way for everything else is the process of transformation. Here is the bad news—it is first and foremost a cultural transformation. If you are one of those ‘gravel-and-guts-don’t-talk-to-me-about-squishy-stuff’ leaders, you will have a hard time with this. However, it is entirely necessary. You must transform the organization from whatever it is now to what it needs to be to make the massive change from rust-belt to high-technology.
What is your organization now? Knowing this is the most important step. You must understand the kind of organization you have now before you can try and transform it into something else. However, even though most CEOs think they know what their organizations are, they are often proven wrong. An example is the previous Wells Fargo CEO, who thought his organization was dedicated to “doing what’s right for the customer.” Despite this claim, the organization defrauded millions of customers in the relentless pursuit of profit over a number of years.
Don’t get me wrong, profit is the number one goal of a for-profit business. But how you get there and if you get there is entirely dependent on the organization’s values and culture.
These days, many CEOs are beginning to understand that everything starts with culture through their realization of how the culture makes or breaks the company. For instance, consider the toxic culture at UBER. To give another example, the problems United Airlines has experienced through treating its customers badly—every time it gets into trouble, it reaches for a policy solution. United doesn’t have a policy problem. It has a culture problem.
It is a well-known fact that super cultures produce super financial results. To achieve a super culture, you will need to install foundational core values that unleash the organization’s true capability. However, be ready for the long-haul, because this cultural transformation process will take years, not months.
Once the organization has been transformed, it is time to ignite what I call its “Innovational Potential™.” This is where you teach the organization how to be creative and where the organization learns how to unleash a blizzard of ideas. This is where you unlock the organization’s inherent ability to be creative. And yes, every organization has this ability. Contrary to popular belief, most people are creative. They just don’t believe they are. So, teach them. Bring in someone who is very good at helping organizations learn creativity.
Once the Innovational Potential™ is unlocked, you’ll have no shortage of killer ideas and products you can bring to the market. At this point, you’re almost ready to disrupt the competition. But not yet. You will still need to put on some new marketing clothes.
Most rust-belt companies rely solely on trade publication advertising. You know what I mean. Four-color, full-page ads that say, “we are the best” or “buy our stuff” and very little else. No one pays any attention to them and they are a complete waste of time and money. Trade publications are yesterday’s marketing communication tools. You need the tools of today’s digital world. And if you want to morph the company into a high-tech organization, you need to look like a high-tech company in the market.
Lastly, if you are going to transform your entire product line to incorporate high-technology, you need to embrace the high-tech world of going to market. This requires the use of tools that include social media, digital marketing, so-called “cause marketing,” video testimonials, and virtual reality demonstrations.
Steven L. Blue is the President & CEO of Miller Ingenuity, an innovative company revolutionizing traditional safety solutions for railway workers, and author of the new book, Metamorphosis: From Rust-Belt to High-Tech in a 21st Century World. For more information, please visit www.StevenLBlue.com, www.milleringenuity.com and connect with Blue on Twitter, @StevenLBlue.