Change an industry

The Tasmanian who changed an industry

By | Change, Innovation | No Comments

Let me take you back to 1902, when an enterprising young man had an idea. J.A. Birchall owned a small stationery shop in Launceston, Tasmania Australia. Someone who would change an industry without being a juggernaut.

Back at the turn of the century, if you wanted to communicate with your clients or just keep in touch with family and friends, you couldn’t email or text them. You could jump on your horse and head off across town, or you could write to them. And unlike today’s world, when you bought writing paper you did so in large individual sheets, usually rolled up that you would then cut to size before use. 

Our young hero could see problems from his customers’ point of view. He noticed that if it was windy or raining his customers would leave the shop fighting to keep their paper rolled neatly without it getting crushed or wet or blown down the road. There had to be a workable solution to this problem and that’s when Mr Birchall had his idea.

He wrote to his suppliers in England and suggested they cut the sheets down into smaller, more manageable sizes. He then evolved the idea and suggested they place a firm backing board under the sheets, so you didn’t have to roll them. He took it even further and suggested they get some gum and glue the top edges of the loose sheets together, so people could peel them off, one by one, as they needed them. 

It took a while to convince his suppliers, but eventually, J.A. Birchall’s creative scheme came into existence. A Tasmanian from Launceston invented the writing notepad that we know today.

What I love about this story, and I tell it often when speaking at conferences, is that it demonstrates three important pillars to change an industry and for business growth.

Firstly, the need to find gaps. Not just market gaps, but small gaps in the way you do things, that solve customers’ problems. Continually look for areas that can be improved bit by bit, inch by inch.

It also demonstrates that creative thinking and innovation belong to everyone and not just the leviathans of industry.

And finally, there’s a spirit in the story you often see throughout places like Tasmania. One which we can all learn from. It’s the spirit of having a crack. It’s the ability and courage to have a go and make ideas happen.

You don’t need to be a juggernaut to change an industry.

Related articles

Is your ability to influence important in leading change?

How the McVikers cashed in on Change

Leveraging Change

conference MC Facilitation tool

Could This Be The Best Facilitation Tool Ever?

By | Innovation, Useful Conference Tips | No Comments

I’ve been facilitating for over 20 years now and am always on the lookout for effective facilitation tools. So when I came upon this I got excited. The story goes that at Virgin’s head office, in their boardroom, is an empty chair. The chair represents the customer, so whenever Sir Richard and his executives get together, symbolically the customer is right there with them. This way they are reminded to see things from the customer’s point of view and not just their own.

Powerful Stuff. And one of the best facilitation tools ever.

Facilitation needs a third person perspective

Often when we’re drawing ideas from others and trying to find creative solutions we get caught up in our own point of view and fail to see things from the point of view of others. As a result we limit our thinking and may even fail to see opportunities outside of our own vision. A third person view of the world can very often make all the difference and so it’s important to see things from someone else’s perspective. To come up with quality business solutions it’s vital to see things in different ways. 

And this is exactly what the empty chair does.

I often use this as a device when facilitating business sessions and also when coaching executives. It is also a brilliant device I often use when facilitating conference sessions. By placing an empty chair at every table and as delegates work through various tasks and problems. They are constantly reminded to consider the customer’s voice, needs, and point of view. As a result, they arrived with solutions that are not from their own point of view but from the point of view of the customer. 

A Facilitation tool to see things through other people point of view.

The empty chair can be used to represent other people as well, such as your stakeholders if they’re opinions and influence are important. Or perhaps the chair could represent a mentor or role model who can symbolically advise you and prompt you to see things differently. 

So why not place an empty chair in your office, boardroom, or creative space? Let it be a reminder to get out of your own head and into the head of someone else and see things from their point of view.

It’s a fantastic facilitation tool to use.

Other related articles to help you get the most from your meeting or events include ‘How to get the most from your conference mc or facilitator’ and ‘4 ways to create delegate engagement at your next meeting or event’.

What Phrenology can teach us about creative thinking

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Back in the late 1700s, a revolution happened in the science of the mind. Concerned with determining a person’s psychological attributes or personalities, such as creative thinking ability, it was known as phrenology. It would do this by merely taking head measurements and feeling their skull for the size of bumps and indentations. The principle behind it was that the brain was divided into different segments. Each of which related to a different psychological attribute. How strong that characteristic or attribute was would be determined by the size of that segment. It followed that a large bump pointed to a stronger trait.

For example if you are a good creative thinker then that part of your brain would be more developed. As a result your skull would have an outward bump to accommodate the extra creative grey matter.

Creative Innovation Never Stops

In other words, you could tell a lot about someone, including what they were good at, simply by feeling the bumps on their head. Sounds reasonable. Introduced by Franz Joseph Gall in 1769, it wasn’t until the early 1800s that the science of Phrenology gained momentum and became fashionable among those wanting to be seen as advocates of the scientific method.

Even today L. N. Fowler’s classic phrenology busts are commonly displayed in public spaces and offices. I have one in my own studio, the bald ceramic skull segmented by lines and descriptions defining different ‘organs’ of the brain relating to particular personality attributes. A dominant bump on the top right of your forehead indicates great foresight; a large bump immediately above your left ear suggests destructive tendencies. Fowler himself wrote, ‘For thirty years I have studied crania and living heads from all parts of the world and have found in every instance there is a perfect correspondence between the conformation of the healthy skull of an individual and his known characteristics’.

Of course, we now know that phrenology had absolutely no basis in fact and that there was never any scientific evidence to support it. So why do people like me (and perhaps you) still proudly display replicas of Mr Fowler’s creation (my kids call him George)? Well, I guess they are kind of cool, and a tad retro. Innovation never stops – it evolves.

A Creative Thinking Reminder

It serves as a reminder that we are better at creative thinking than we give ourselves credit for. And as a reminder that just when you think you know everything and you’ve got it right, somewhere, somehow, someone knows more than you and has done it better than you. It reminds me that there is always a second right answer. And that you need to keep an open mind and keep looking for new ideas, new perspectives, new concepts and new empirical evidence.

The truth is, we don’t know everything and we never will; and if you want to improve yourself and your business, you need to be constantly improving your skills and your knowledge.

In the ‘Game of Inches‘, you need to be forever learning. It’s another one of the things all the successful people I have spoken with and read about have in common. They are curious, inquisitive, constantly seeking out knowledge. Commonly seeing learning not just as an academic pursuit but as an integral part of their lives that takes many forms and has many sources. It forms the basis of my keynote presentations

Related articles include ‘3 Big Innovation Barriers‘ and regarding the mindset of change read leveraging change and The power of incremental change

3 Big Innovation Barriers.

By | Innovation | No Comments

Innovation is massively important because it is what helps a business grow, outpace their competition, change with the times and profit. But in pursuing our need and lust for innovation there lie a number of barriers, challenges and traps that actually hinder and stop innovation in its tracks.

1. The myth of BIG:

There is the myth out there that in order to be successful we need to be radically disruptive, we need to find the next big innovation, come up with the next Uber or reinvent the iPhone. And that simply isn’t true.  

We constantly hear and talk about stories of start-ups who began with a radical idea and who changed the world and made millions, if not billions in the process. But the reality is that the Ubers of this world are few and far between.

But who said that innovation had to be about big radical disruption?

Many businesses and their leaders, like I once did, believe that success and profitable growth relies on finding that one ‘Eureka’ idea. Truth is though business success isn’t about one single innovation but many small-scale innovations strung together. Business success comes by consistently finding innovative ways to improve everything you do. And those innovations don’t need to be big or radical, they simply need to work, be effective and make your business money.

I’m not saying if you do happen to invent the next Google or the next Uber not to go for it but what I am s saying is don’t let it be to the detriment of the business in front of you.

Many really successful businesses have never had a disruptive idea what they have done extraordinarily well is consistently find ways to do things better than their competitors and before the competitors. I have interviewed literally hundreds of successful entrepreneurs and business leaders and the one thing that stands out is their ability and their passion for constant improvement. When speaking it’s something I’ve seen audiences at innovation conferences always keen to discuss.

To overcome this barrier to innovation we need to change our view of innovation from being radical and large-scale to being achievable, effective and everyday.

2. Complexity:

Most people see innovation as too costly, too risky, too time-consuming and way too complex. Which is another challenge worth overcoming.

In companies all over the planet are innovation champions with a myriad of innovation degrees and various models and systems that measure, test, analyse, re-measure and re-test. All valid and effective.

Thing is, ask your people to be innovative and they’ll run because there is someone up on level three who does that, and they are way too busy to get involved anyway. They see innovation as a challenge

But give your people a simple achievable process and back it up with a culture to support them and they will perform miracles.

Simply ask them to find a problem or a gap, come up with a solution, act on it and gauge whether it works or not and you’ll have an endless supply of innovative solutions.

Who said innovation has to be complicated?

3: Micromanagement:

Here’s the deal. If you want innovation as part of your business on an everyday basis then you need to give your people permission to not just find effective solutions but let them act of those solutions and stuff those solutions up as well.

If you want to suppress the desire of your team to be constantly finding ways of doing things better then all you need to do is look over their shoulders and tell them how to do everything. Micromanagement is a massive barrier to innovation thriving in your business.

It’s one thing to give a directive of everyday, small-scale innovation to your people but it’s another thing entirely to let them take the initiative and the responsibility

Build an innovation culture that give them permission to not just have ideas but also put them in place. Let them know it’s okay to try something and get it wrong as long as they learn from mistakes.

When speaking with audiences I see all the time the lights come on and the heads nod when these three big myths are debunked.

Business success isn’t a result of finding and successfully implementing a single ‘Eureka’ idea. It’s the culmination of many scale-scale innovations and of consistently finding innovative ways to improve everything you do. Business success is a ‘Game of Inches’.

A related article to this is ‘How do I foster an innovation culture in my team?

How do I foster an innovation culture in my team?

By | Innovation, Leadership | No Comments

Building an innovation culture is a ‘Game of Inches’ and not a one-off event or a single “eureka”’ idea.

Success comes from incrementally moving forward and finding innovative ways to consistently improve your business. So how do you help your people be innovative every day?

As an innovation speaker, one of the challenges with this is that innovation is seen too often as large-scale radical disruption. There’s a stance out there for many businesses that to become more profitable and move to the next level they need to find the next big thing. As a result, most of your team see innovation as a scary and inaccessible proposition because it is too complex, too risky and too hard.

Let’s face it: most people in your organisation are simply trying to keep up with their own workload and their own processes on a day-to-day basis, so they don’t have the time or inclination to focus on innovative solutions for the entire business. But what if you shift that?

What if you change the view of innovation and its role?

What if rather than seeing it as disruptive you see it as an achievable everyday process and encourage your people to find ways of improving their part of the business, no matter how big or how small the improvement may be? Imagine the difference that would make throughout your organisation because great ideas and solutions are ones that are workable, profitable and make a difference to your business in a positive way.

To do that requires not just a shift in mindset from large-scale innovation to small-scale innovation.

Give your team permission to be innovative each and every day.

It also requires you to give your team permission to seek ideas that improve their world and more importantly act on those ideas. If they don’t feel they have your permission to do so then chances are they won’t .

You also need to be brave enough to give them permission to make mistakes. The good news is if you fail on a small-scale improvement it’s not going to break you. As Mark Evans, owner of Paronella Park in Queensland once told me: “You don’t learn anything if you don’t fail. ”

So always ask: “What did you learn and what can be done differently next time?”

Your team needs to measure the difference their innovative ideas are making.

Finally, great innovative ideas need to make a difference to your business in a positive way so you need to know how effective any improvements are. That doesn’t need to be complex because it could be as simple as measuring time saved, improved conversion rates or cost savings.

Here’s a case-study we did a while back on how a small change (16 footsteps in fact) added $30k difference to the bottom line of a restaurant.

It’s a shift from big to small – when researching innovation cultures I see it all the time

Remember business success is a game of inches. Ask your people to invent the next Google or come up with the next Uber and they will freeze with panic and fear. (The myth of big is one of the challenges to innovation in most organisations). But fostering a culture of achievable small-scale innovation and they will achieve greatness.

Related articles include ‘What Phrenology can teach us about creative thinking‘ and ‘How 16 Footsteps Added $30k To Bottom Line Profit’ and also Strong leaders don’t run, they walk fast in times of crisis

Find out more about how Nigel can help your leaders and teams through his executive coaching, and other keynotes

Business Growth and Innovation

Ingenious Oz Project Reveals Secrets To Business Growth and Innovation

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If you had the opportunity to interview 100’s of successful people and business leaders, what would you discover about business growth and innovation? Over the last five years, I’ve had the opportunity of doing just that and I’ve learned there are patterns in what successful people and their businesses do and how they do it.

Ingenious Oz Project – NT

Recently I headed off into the Northern Territory (supported by NT Tourism and Department of Trade Business and Innovation) with my good mate Brad Foster to discover and share stories of ingenious and innovative Australian businesses and people. As we rode (couldn’t help but do it on Indian Motorcycles) from Alice Springs to Darwin we filmed a series of unique interviews. Each one revealing insights into what it really takes to consistently grow a sustainable and dynamic business. These fresh new case studies will be folded into my future keynotes.

Unique Case-Studies and Pragmatic Insights

The Ingenious Oz Project began five years ago when I headed off into remote and regional Australia, just me, my motorbike and a video camera. I wanted to capture on film clever and ingenious Australian business success stories in the hope that these stories would inspire others to pursue their business ideas and dreams. This led to the development of the ‘Game of Inches’ business process, and of course the book. It forms the backbone of my keynotes and workshops on business growth and innovation. This latest trip through the Northern Territory confirmed the Game of Inches process.

The 4 most important learnings around business growth and innovation

1. It’s a Game of Inches

It’s the small things that drive big results and business success is a game of inches. It happens one step at a time. 99% of successes come from many small, practical steps rather than the single ‘Eureka’ idea. This recent trip confirmed the Game of Inches process.

The big idea makes a good story, but it’s hard for people to incorporate into their everyday working lives. Success is not a one-off disruptive moment but a matter of consistently finding ways to improve everything you do and consistently disrupting and innovating.

The game of Inches is what makes big happen.

2. Find the Gap

Successful people are geniuses at finding gaps. Gaps are problems or opportunities that, if addressed, result in massive payoffs. Just outside Alice Springs is an award-winning tourism operation called ‘Earth Sanctuary’ run by three brothers and their dad.  If you visit their ‘Star Show’ you literally sit under the stars in the desert (which is amazing in its own right) and they teach you about the night sky.

What’s interesting is how they developed the idea (they didn’t sit around one-day brainstorming new product offerings). The idea came after sleeping under the stars for 10 years. Realising no-one was exploiting one of the NT’s great assets (it’s incredibly clear night skies) they created their astro tourism business.

Finding gaps isn’t just about finding market gaps, it’s also about finding those little things that make a big difference. Humpty Doo Barramundi Farm just outside of Darwin is constantly looking for gaps in the way they do things. An amazingly sustainable operation where they constantly look at finding ways to improve everything they do. Incremental innovation at its best.

Be a gap hunter, not an idea hunter.

3. It’s Action that drives business growth and innovation

One of the main traits you see in successful people and businesses throughout the NT is their ability to simply ‘have a crack’. They don’t wait till everything is ready to go (because if they did nothing would ever happen). Damien Ryan, Mayor of Alice Springs told me “Remoteness instigates inventiveness”. Part of the reason for this is that it forces people to think differently, find inventive solutions and act.

Just start and take action. Without it, business growth and innovation will never happen.

4. Nurturing the Right Mindset is Paramount

In 1997 Justin and Karinda Gill arrived in Darwin with $1000.00 to their names. Along with their kids, they slept in a caravan. Today Justin and Karinda run Abode New Homes, an award-winning residential building company worth around $40million. When interviewing Justin, he talked about the importance of nurturing and maintaining the right mindset. Mindset is a trait you see in all successful people.

Mindset is everything

Check out how I can help your organisation and people think and be more innovative from the lessons learned of many ingenious people I’ve met. (and hear their stories and see snippets of their interviews with them).
As well as executive coaching.

You might also like to read ‘What Phrenology can teach us about creative thinking’ and ‘Hoe do I foster an innovation culture in my team?’


What If Disruption Is Holding You Back?

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Disruption isn’t new.

Imagine you lived in ancient Rome at the height of the Roman Empire. One of the most exciting times in history. A time everything was changing at an enormous pace. Where such inventions as paved roads meant you could travel further and faster than ever before. The Romans also invented the aqueduct system allowing water to be transported 100’s of miles. A major disruption because it had massive ramifications for such things as urbanisation, agriculture and sanitation.

Rome, 2000 years ago, was a time when inventions and ideas were disrupting and driving the world. It was a time when you may have been asking yourself ‘what could they possibly think of next?’ And that’s not just rhetoric because one of Rome’s chief engineers, Sextus Julius Frontius, is known as saying… ‘Inventions have long since reached their limit, and I see no hope for further development.’

Imagine you live during the industrial age.

One of the greatest times of change in human history. A time when things were changing faster than ever before. A time when you’d wake in the morning and find another factory built down the road from where you lived. It was a time when great ideas disrupted the very fabric of society. Henry Ford’s idea of the mass production line influenced industry and commerce forever. It was also a time when a gentleman named Thomas Edison had one of the most brilliant ideas in history. The light bulb. Such a brilliant idea that its image has become symbolic of ideas themselves. What an exciting time to live.

But you and I live in today’s world, which is surely one of the most exciting times in history. We live in a time of great change and massive disruption, where things such as smartphones, social media and all forms of digital technology are disrupting and shaping our world. Yet when you think about it, that’s no different to any other time in history apart from the fact that we now label it as ‘disruption’. The world of business has become obsessed with the very idea of it.

Is your view of ‘disruption’ impeding you from achieving it?

Roads, aqueducts, production lines, light bulbs, smartphones and social media are all game changes. No doubt about it because each changed the world. Yet in those very examples lies a problem with disruption because if it is seen as big, paradigm-shifting, one-off, expensive, risky and hard to keep doing then it is viewed as unachievable for most. But it’s broader than that.

But what if disrupting an industry is a game of inches? What if it could happen in small steps, incrementally?

John McGrath didn’t build one of the world’s best (if not the best) real estate companies by reinventing the real estate industry, he did it by being obsessed with constantly improving and doing everything better than everyone else. Toyota didn’t invent the motorcar but they disrupted the industry through their philosophy of Kaizen (constant improvement) and by innovating on a small scale, again and again, and again.

To be groundbreaking doesn’t mean you need a massive earth mover to disturb tons of dirt because you can break ground one clod at a time. To disrupt you don’t need to invent the next iPhone. You just need to do something no one else has never done or do something in a way or do it better than anyone else has done before.

It’s something I noticed conference audiences hanker to learn when speaking on innovation.

Re-shift your thinking about disruption

So we need to expand our view of disruption from being one of ‘big’ and ‘out of reach’ to one of being ‘consistent steps’ and ‘achievable’.

What if you focus on doing the little things better than everyone else and work harder at finding innovative ways of improving things? What if you seek clever, new avenues of revenue, or focus hard on finding gaps within your market and your own processes. And if you keep doing that, maybe, just maybe one day you will notice you have disrupted your industry one step at a time.

Business Reinvention And The Town That Changed Itself

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I was invited to be part of the Northern Territory’s annual October Business Month, a couple of weeks back. to conduct a couple of ‘Game of Inches’ workshops. One of which was at a small town called Nhulunbuy (pronounced Nullanboy), which is situated on the Gove Peninsula in East Arnhem Land. A stand out of reinvention and a stunningly beautiful part of remote Australia.

As a town Nhulunbuy is built around a bauxite mine (which when refined a couple of times ultimately makes aluminum). A few years back it was decided that the alumina refinery was to be closed resulting in the population of the town dropping from 4000 to approximately 2200.

Think about this for a second, because the town practically halved in size overnight. What happens to local business, to those who own property, what happens to the local school and hospital? If your business lost almost half its clients, it would put you and your team in a complete tailspin.

Problems lead to opportunities

As one of the town’s prominent business owners told me, people got together and looked for gaps and opportunities, and for ways they could save their town. From adversity comes opportunity if you are smart enough and brave enough to try and find it.

Although the refinery closed, the mine itself remains open and so as a first step Rio Tinto stopped ‘fly in fly out’ workers’ so now if you work at the mine you must live in the town.

Then they found an opportunity in extreme tourism. Arnhem Land is one of the most beautiful, untouched and remote parts of Australia (if not the world) that you can visit. Although only an hours flight from Darwin and only 800 odd kilometres by road from Katherine, the drive will take you a least two days and as suggested to me you should do it in someone else’s vehicle. On top of that Arnhem Land is completely owned by the traditional indigenous owners and so to drive through it to Nhulunbuy requires a permit. When you get there if you want to walk on the beach (and trust me you will) you also need a permit because it is also indigenous land.

But here’s the thing. There are those who hanker for those off the beaten track, adventurous experiences, to go where the masses don’t and get that unique experience to see a part of Australia that is largely untouched. There is a market which is largely untapped and it’s what the people of Nhulunbuy are focusing on. They are ramping up their marketing, they are working with the traditional owners to make obtaining permits easier and faster. On top of this reinvention, they are looking into the possibility of creating glamping sites along the road. They found a gap in the market and they are filling it.

Reinvention leads to growth

Now obviously it is working or I wouldn’t be telling about this. From a low of 2200 people they, in a space of a couple of years are back to 3300 and looking at exceeding the previous population of 4000 in the next 18 months or so. Which by the way will mean building more houses.

I love this story and I fell in love with this town.

Things go wrong in business and life all the time. No matter how much you plan or how much your guru tells you they don’t. Someone, somewhere changes something and it can have massive ramifications for you. But here’s the thing, you have a choice. You can give up, you can stick your head in the sand, or you can do something. Nhunlunbuy took the third option.

They didn’t change things overnight and they are still in the process of rebuilding, but step by step, inch by inch. One small change at a time they are reinventing themselves. Individuals and businesses all over this country should learn from it because it’s a great reminder that when things change, and you look for gaps like the people of Nhulunbuy did, new opportunities arise. If you’re smart enough and brave enough not to panic, look around, think and act. Here’s another example of how finding a small gap made a massive difference to a small restaurant in Port Macquarie

So here’s to Nhulunbuy.

A big thanks to all the people of the town I met – you inspired me. And to the Department of Trade, Business and Innovation and Darwin City & Waterfront Retailers for having me as part of NT October Business Month.

I now find myself constantly speaking about the innovation of this amazing community and how they used change to their advantage.


Other similar articles to read are ‘The power of incremental change’ and Leveraging Change as well as ‘The Tasmanian who changed an industry’ as well as  ‘Ingenious Oz Project Reveals Secrets To Business Growth and Innovation’.


Keep The Barges Coming; On Consistent Action

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Back in the good old days of the industrial revolution in England something extraordinary was happening with the canal system. It led to a philosophy of consistent steps, of drip feeding, leading to sustainable growth. And it has become a philosophy for me and also my team. In fact, I adopted it in my last three businesses. ‘Keep the Barges Coming’.

Let me set the scene. In England (as in many parts of Europe) since medieval times there has been a network of water canals, much like a road network. This allowed farmers, manufacturers and businesses to move goods from the coast to their villages and workshops, then back again.

The Problem (Gap)

Imagine if you were in charge of one of these facilities during the good times of the 1800’s. The problem you faced was how to get a consistent supply of raw materials to keep you and your workers productive. Although the canal system had been around for hundreds of years it was far from perfect. Especially when the industrial revolution kicked in.

It was slow because the small boats were pulled through the water by horses which walked along the land on either side of the canal. Adding to this the boats were rather small and limited in their capacity. But during the industrial revolution the Brits (being infrastructure geniuses) set about building larger canals, more of them and bigger self-driven boats called Barges. And this is where this starts to get interesting because it created another set of problems.

When a shipload of materials arrived on the coast the temptation was to send all of it at once up the canal to your factory. You were then inundated with supplies and your workers were inundated with pressure to process it all.  Result being ‘everything at once overwhelm’. But then another major issue reared its head. Once all the supplies had been used there was nothing until the next shipment. Which could be months away. Massive downtime.

The Solution – consistent action

The solution was staggering the supply of materials over a period of time.  Warehouses started popping up at the docks. With a bit of planning it then became a matter of keeping a consistent flow of barges. Small consistent shipments. Meaning when they arrive they were more easily handled on site by workers and as current supplies started to dwindle the next barge would arrive. Reduced downtime, reduced stress, better productivity and because of all that, arguably better quality. These consistent steps meant sustainable growth

It was a much better decision to keep drip feeding and keep the barges coming. The change is a constant and it’s the small things and consistent actions that make the big differences.

What this means to your business

For us it is a metaphor for nurturing clients. Rather than overwhelm them from the first call, let’s just give them what they need now and then something else later. It’s a about drip feeding your clients with an email newsletter every so often, or a blog post, or sending an information pack or thank you gift, rather than bombarding them with everything at once. For us ‘Keep the barges coming’ is a reminder to keep in touch, bit by bit, inch by inch. It supports the ‘Game of Inches’ process.

I first learned of this years back when reading about advertising giant Saatchi and Saatchi who a slightly different slant because they view the barge as being the customer themselves and you need to keep the barge moving up the canal. They are attributed to inventing the modern sales and marketing funnel based on just this. In their book ‘Chutzpah & Chutzpah’ by Simon Goode, Richard Myers and Nick Darke, they note that Saatchi & Saatchi referred to it as ‘The Canal System…once a client (or barge) with money (coal) is put into the system (the canal) at one end, sooner of later they have to arrive at the port (Saatchi & Saatchi)’.  The premise being that you need to nurture and prod and help them move along the sales and marketing funnel, bit by bit. Not just give them one massive shove at the start and hope all ends well.

Consistent Steps Leads To Sustainable Growth

Here’s the thing. ‘Keep the barges coming’ means you don’t have to spend zillions on marketing or create the next super bowl ad or immerse your industry on a one-off mega campaign. You just need to take small consistent steps. And as a side benefit, it takes the pressure off your people, your finances your time and ultimately leads to stronger relationships.

It’s one of the main message clients want me to speak about and conduct workshops on when helping their teams consistently improve,

Talk soon.


Other articles on innovation include ‘How do I foster an innovation culture in my team?’ or ‘What if disruption is holding you back?’ and ‘3 Big innovation barriers’

How 16 Footsteps Added $30k To Bottom Line Profit

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A very clever restaurant in Port Macquarie is boosting its bottom line profit by focusing on the little things – the inches.

Overlooking the harbour and village green of Port Macquarie is a restaurant called Chop and Chill, (one of my favourite haunts). Not only do they make great coffee, really good food and have an awesome view, they leverage inches really well.

Let me give you an example.

A while back a new head chef was brought in who, along with one of the restaurant managers, noticed something interesting. It took 16 extra footsteps to plate certain meals. A bit like a game of football where the backs cook the food (in the rear of the kitchen), the midfield move it through the centre and the forwards (front of the kitchen) serve the food onto the plates.

Solution and results.

Rather than re-configuring the kitchen they just reconfigured the process of plating the food. Meaning one less person needed in the kitchen saving them between $30k-$35k per annum. Directly boosting bottom-line profit

A Second Gap

Being an ingenious business they noticed another profitable gap. Having an outdoor seating area, tables and chairs needed to be moved in and out each morning and evening. This took up to two hours each day. That’s about $50 in wages per day, $350 each week, or $18,000 per annum. Add to this the wear and tear of constantly moving the furniture, as well as the odd bad back.

Install security shutters which can be drawn down at night and lifted in the morning. The shutters will cost about $20,000 and after 12 months they will be literally adding $18,000 to their bottom line each and every year. That’s a lot of meals and a lot of profit.

Every business, although doing most things well are letting these small steps, (inches), fall through the cracks. After all what difference can 16 steps make? It’s only a couple of hours and moving furniture and shutters are expensive right?

You see… everyone is searching for the next big idea. But here’s what I’ve seen having interviewed hundreds of businesses and their leaders, it’s actually the multiple of small ideas which are often overlooked. And are faster and easier to address and more profitable in the short term. Innovation is constant and these guys have found the secret to incremental innovation. The trick is for leadership to set the right culture and process to allow their people to find and act on them.

Similar innovation blogs posts you might enjoy are ‘Business reinvention and the town that changed itself and ‘Keep the barges coming’ and ‘Ingenious Oz Project reveals the secrets to business growth and innovation’ 


See how you can help your team find small gaps through the Game of Inches process, and innovation presentations and workshops

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